As Marshawn Lynch puts it near the end of his half-hour long interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, “I’m 10 toes down in the town.’’
What that typically Lynch-esque and undeniably unique statement means is Lynch is rooted in his hometown of Oakland, specifically, and Black and other communities of color in general.
It was in an attempt to reach those communities that led to Lynch landing an interview with Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Lynch premiered on his YouTube channel Friday afternoon.
And if it might seem like a most unlikely pairing, it all made sense in the end.
The former Seahawks running back — who now seems happy in retirement at age 34 (he turns 35 next week) — told Fauci he hoped the conversation would educate people in communities of color who might be reluctant to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
That was Fauci’s goal, as well, saying he appeared with Lynch hoping “that you might want to encourage them with me … to make sure they wind up getting vaccinated.’’
Lynch asked Fauci early on if he can keep it real, so be forewarned there are certain words in the interview we can’t publish here.
But Lynch’s intent is as real as the words he speaks throughout, as well.
Fauci began by saying it is especially important for African Americans and Hispanics to get vaccinated because people in those communities have higher rates of dying from COVID-19 or suffering severe illness. Lynch responded that some in those communities have reason to believe that government initiatives may not be always be in their best interest.
“We don’t seem to be on the well-received end of those situations,’’ Lynch said. “… I mean, I believe there is an education-type situation, and not so much the vaccination, but any time we have been told we are going to be in a situation to have something gave to us or put in our communities to help us, it seemed to turn out very bad for us.’’
Responded Fauci: “I totally respect the reluctance that African Americans have about things like this because you’re absolutely right the history of how the federal government, going back decades, particularly in the area of medical issues, how they’ve treated African Americans has not been something to be proud of.”
Lynch specifically wondered why the government hasn’t done more to help Black Americans and other people of color deal with combating what Fauci called the “social determinants of health” that lead to underlying conditions — such as diabetes — that contribute to more severe reactions to COVID-19. And he says that lingering skepticism might keep some in those communities from trusting the vaccine.
“It’s more like why hasn’t this been the situation in the fight for us since the beginning of time?’’ Lynch asks.
Fauci called such skepticism “a really good point’’ and said, “When we get over this outbreak, I hope we don’t forget all the things you are talking about …. What we’ve got to remember is let’s get through this coronavirus pandemic now. Let’s get African Americans and Hispanics vaccinated. But when it’s over, let’s try and make a commitment that would likely last for decades and decades to try and turn around those conditions that got African Americans behind the eight ball in the first place. That’s what we’ve got to do.’’
Lynch says throughout his goal is not to tell anyone what to do, but rather to make sure they are as informed as possible when making their own decision.
When Lynch asked about the success rates of the vaccines, Fauci noted three different vaccines were tested on 30,000 or more people.
“When we tested the vaccine in African Americans and Hispanics, it was safe and it induced the kind of response that was literally identical to the response in whites,’’ Fauci said. “It was the same as whites. It was as safe as it was in whites and as effective as it was in whites. That information is public knowledge. … That data isn’t a secret; that is now public knowledge.’’
Lynch said such information is what he hopes he can take to those in his communities and pass along.
“The biggest thing is the education and I mean if you are not an individual who speaks the language, you are going to get lost in the cause,’’ Lynch said.
“I hope we can get some good for your community,’’ Fauci responded.
Lynch ended by inviting Fauci out to Oakland someday. Fauci responded with an offer of a basketball game if he does (he was a team captain in high school) while Lynch countered that maybe they should try football.
And with that Lynch thanked Fauci for appearing, though not before calling him “Big Dawg’’ one last time, keeping all 10 toes in the town to the end.