When Russell Wilson watched the video of George Floyd being murdered by Minneapolis Police Department officers, the Seahawks quarterback couldn't help but think of his step son, Future Zahir, daughter, Sienna, and the unborn son his wife, Ciara, is currently carrying.
Wilson's sadness stems as much from the fact that he fears for his own children's safety as from the knowledge that his experience is a nearly universal one for black parents.
"The reality is that me as a black person, people are getting murdered on the street, people are getting shot down, and it's not like that for every other race," Wilson said on a video press conference. "I think about my step son, I think about my daughter, I think about our new baby boy on the way. It's staggering to watch these things happen right in front of our faces. So I have a heavy heart right now.
"Ultimately, it's a lot of pain, there's a lot of history in America. There's a lot of hate in America, there's a lot of division. I pray that we can be better as people… Some of this police brutality is staggering, and honestly that's not something I understand fully. It's pretty emotional just to watch some of the videos. Even in Seattle, my home, watching the things happening there, it's pretty heavy… It's important that we understand that being black is a real thing in America, it's a real thing in the sense of the history and pain, even my own family personally—my great, great grandparents were slaves. There's a lot of history there, and what I'm praying for is that we learn how to love and to communicate and to overcome, to try to have perspective."
Yet while Wilson has a heavy heart, he also said he sees hope in the response he has seen over the past week, not just in the form of protests around the country, but also in the conversations he has had with black and white teammates.
"I'm going to say I am hopeful that we can make a change," said Wilson, who did not discuss any football-related topics in a press conference that lasted more than half an hour. "I'm hopeful that we're going to vote, I'm hopeful that we're going to pick the right leaders to be able to help us in this process. I'm hopeful that the people that I get to work with, the corporations I get to work with, will help make a change with me and Ciara and everybody else that we know. And I know that us, the Seattle Seahawks, are going do as much as we can to make a difference. I'm hopeful that there will be a change, because I'm praying that my kids don't have to grow up in a world where they have to face that much weight every day when they walk outside
"A guy was murdered last week, and there needs to be a change. There needs to be a change. It's not overly complicated."
In a candid and emotional conversation with Seattle-area media, Wilson talked about his own experiences as a child in Richmond, Virginia, and about how his father had to give him the talk about how to handle encounters with police. Wilson also shared a story about confronting prejudice while at a restaurant in California not long after winning Super Bowl XLVIII, a reminder that racism is not a thing of the past, nor is it something that doesn't exist in more progressive parts of the country.
Wilson also discussed former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016 began protesting police brutality and racial inequality by sitting, then later kneeling during the national anthem, and who has not been signed by an NFL team since the 2016 season ended. Wilson expressed his support for the movement Kaepernick helped start among NFL players, saying his former NFC West rival was doing the right thing by sticking up for people who have been oppressed for centuries.
"The reality is that Colin was trying to symbolize the oppression that was going on in America and that has been going on for 400 years," Wilson said. "… The reality is what Colin was trying to do was he was trying to do the right thing, trying to stand up figuratively, for what was been going on for America… The reality is that we all need to help, we all need to find our own ways of how we're going to love and how we're going to make a difference. And everybody may do it differently. I don't know what everybody is going to do and how they're going to do it, but it's calling for people to understand what's really going on. And it's heavy, it's heavy on me, because with Colin in particular, he was trying to symbolize the right thing. People may have taken that the wrong way, but I think that he was trying to do the right thing. He stood up in so many amazing ways to really stand up for black lives and what's going on, and the oppression of what's going on and people getting murdered and everything else. It's the right thing that he's been trying to do.
"He stood up for something that's way greater than football, and that's people's lives. He's standing up for his kids' lives one day, standing up for people who have come and gone, and standing up for everybody else's kids who are African American, and the oppression that's been going on."
Wilson was a mixture of sad but hopeful on Wednesday, and he acknowledged that real progress will likely take some time, but in the end, his goal is a simple yet profound one.
"My ultimate prayer," he said, "is for my newborn son that comes in the world is to be able to live in a world that's not like this."