Bobby Wagner wanted to see it with his own eyes and say it with his own voice.
So on Saturday, one of the most prominent Seahawks headed to Seattle to take part in the protest of the death of George Floyd.
And Monday, he asked the team if he could move up a scheduled Zoom meeting with media so he could relay what he saw as well as his feelings on Floyd’s death and what has happened since, thoughts he said he wanted to deliver as personally as he could to say “what I had on my heart.”
Wagner began with a roughly three-minute long statement in which he implored the media “to report the peaceful side of the protests as well report the people that are doing good, because there is a lot of people that are doing good out there, a lot of people that want to see the world change and don’t want to see the world like this one, want feel good to have our kids in this world.”
He then took questions in a session that lasted almost an hour.
Wagner said because of how he had seen protests being portrayed, he wanted to head into Seattle to get his own view.
“I just feel like I wanted to feel the energy,’’ Wagner said. “I wanted to see for myself. I feel like there were things being portrayed on the internet and things like that and I just wanted to see it firsthand for myself.’’
Wagner said the protest initially was “very peaceful.’’
“Everything’s peaceful until there’s a white person that threw something at the cops and they start fighting and they start tear-gassing everybody,’’ Wagner said. “And then I watched a group of white-handed individuals destroy a cop car and set it on fire, and I watched black people try to stop them from doing that but, you know, it just wasn’t happening. And then it got to a point where I felt like it was unsafe for me to be there. So I left.’’
His session with reporters came after the Seahawks’ scheduled team meeting Monday that Wagner said did not touch on football — NFL teams are continuing to conduct their offseason programs virtually, meaning players are logging into computers to participate in meetings from their homes.
“We focused on what was going on in the world and we gave anybody an opportunity to express their feelings, express their emotions and express their anger and whatever it was they were feeling,’’ Wagner said. “Because at the end of the day, life is bigger than football. There is a lot of things happening that are bigger than football. So they provided an opportunity for guys to speak about the things that they saw, the things that they are dealing with, what it’s like in their city that they are in because everybody’s city is handling this differently.
“It was kind of hard for me to focus on football or focus on anything other than what was going on because if you looked from whatever you were doing, all you saw was what was happening and it makes it tough. So being able to speak about it was definitely helpful and I’m grateful we have an organization that understands.’’
Wagner also asked reporters to imagine that someone they knew such as him was in Floyd’s situation. But then he said the goal is for people to notice the need for change regardless of if events impact them personally.
“You don’t need it to happen to someone close to you for you to feel that way,’’ Wagner said as part of his opening statement.
“And so I just urge everybody to educate themselves. I urge everybody to figure out what we can do to make this better. I don’t have all the answers. I’m hurting and pissed off like everybody else. I’m tired like everybody else. You know I want to see something different. But it’s gonna take some leadership and we don’t have that leadership right now. We have someone in office (a reference to President Donald Trump) that is calling Black protesters thugs and white protesters good people and that’s not OK.’’
Wagner said he knows that as a well-known football player his experience might be different from others — he recalled once how the demeanor of a policeman changed when he was pulled over once while attending Utah State once the officer found out he played football.
But he said that doesn’t change that “we still are scared as everybody else. We still have those thoughts and feelings as everybody else. So we still go through those things, as everybody else.’’
And with that fame, he knows, comes a platform that Wagner and others on the Seahawks have used for years.
He’d hoped, though, for more progress than he felt this week’s events indicated has been made. But Wagner says continuing to talk — and listen — is more important than ever.
“There just has to be raised awareness in my opinion of what is going on,’’ he said. “What’s going on has to mean something to you because, you know, we sit on here and something like this happens. And we, you know, do the post on Instagram, put our messages (out), write our messages, everybody’s sincere, everybody’s understanding of the situation. And then, after a week or two, everything kind of goes back to status quo for everybody else, but not for Black people. They still have those images in their head, they still have those, those thoughts, they still have those fears of worrying and thinking, could that have been me. And so, that’s why I say I really feel like people just need to understand everybody’s experience especially the Black experience, because it hasn’t been great.’’