Two months to the day since George Floyd died while in police custody, Chris Harris Jr. is urging people to continue the conversations surrounding racial injustice and police brutality.
Black Lives Matter protests have taken place across America and the world in the wake of Floyd’s death in a united push for reform and large-scale change, the kind of which not seen following previous incidents involving the likes of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Breonna Taylor.
Professional athletes, including in the NFL, have used their platforms to demand justice, with many sports seeing players and competitors take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
While reaction to past cases has faded over time, there is a clear desire to prevent the death of Floyd and the social issues it reaffirms from being brushed aside.
“I think [continuing to talk about it] is huge, not just off of George Floyd but everybody,” Harris Jr., of the Los Angeles Chargers, told Sky Sports. “Everybody can relate to that story I think. They’ve seen it with their eyes.
“A lot of people even have family members that have had to go through that so it’s really just opened everybody’s eyes and showed everybody that blacks do get treated differently with cops, it does happen. It’s facts.”
Since the Washington Post launched its police shooting database in 2015, the paper found that although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for just 13 percent of the US population, but more than a quarter of police shooting victims.
The veteran cornerback went on to underline the extent of the problem as he detailed the discussions he has with young black men in regards to how they should behave around local law enforcement.
They are lessons that few, if any, white parents or mentors can relate to. And there lies the problem.
“It’s something that me as a man, I just know you’ve got to know how to talk to cops and how to work with them and keep them from being uncomfortable,” he explained.
“That’s one thing that I try to teach the young guys and all the kids, that when you’re with a cop try to be as respectful as you can because really at that time your life is in their hands.
“That’s one thing I try to preach because if you come at a cop disrespectfully he’s going to be uncomfortable and it could go very bad from there.”
The 31-year-old recently addressed his four young daughters in a letter for The Players’ Tribune, admitting it is a “terrifying time to be a black father”.
Alongside the calls for greater accountability and changes to management practices, Harris Jr. believes enhancing the relationship between the police and minority communities is key to addressing the problem of systemic racism.
“We have police here, they’re not going to go away even though some states are trying to get them out of here,” he continued.
“They’re not going to go away so we’ve got to have them be able to come into our community and build a bond with the community, get to know these people. I think that would help out a lot.
“Down here in Texas we’ve got a lot of cops that attend our church so we’re able to get to know them that way and know how they work so I think things like that.
“Having the cops being involved with the community or whatever events they have and just getting to know the people.”
The NFL appeared to strengthen its stance regarding racial equality this offseason after a number of the league’s top players came together to produce a video calling on greater support.
Commissioner Roger Goodell followed two statements, which were criticised and seen by some as weak, by apologising for not listening to players on the issue of racism in the past and admitting the NFL would not exist without its black players.
“It’s huge because everybody is coming together for one purpose and that’s just to bring unity to continue having this conversation and just build each other up out of love,” said Harris Jr.
“You’re doing it out of love and you’re trying to uplift everybody and break the barriers of what’s been going on between the races, because it’s not just black people and white people, you have Mexican people, Indian people and a lot of immigrants, it’s just about us being able to work in unity together.”
Though the Super Bowl 50 champion is yet to discuss taking a knee with his new Chargers teammates, it is something the former Denver Broncos star fully anticipates across the NFL come the start of the season.
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