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He told Turron Davenport of ESPN that the killing of George Floyd after since-fired and arrested Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting Floyd was “the straw that broke the camel’s back, it finally got to the point where enough was enough.”
“More and more people are getting an awakening to the reality of the situation and how deep it really is,” he continued. “There’s so many layers to it and it’s been happening for far too long. If you’re a white person, you don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis. It’s easy to go about your life not worrying about it. I think people are waking up.”
Tannehill also said that Colin Kaepernick‘s protest against racial injustice and police brutality in 2016—when he kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games—helped educate him on issues of racism in the United States.
So did conversations with his former teammate on the Miami Dolphins, Kenny Stills, who shared his experiences as a black man in the United States and recommended literature like The New Jim Crow for Tannehill to read:
“My conversations with Kenny and coming to realize what he’s gone through in his life. I can’t imagine being put in that situation and having to deal with it. You hear stories like that and you start to research. I started digging more and more into it as time went on. You go from being naive to the situation and to the privilege. I wanted to learn more and realize how big of an issue it is.”
Tannehill said he wished he’d been more supportive of Kaepernick at the time.
“Do I wish I would have known more and been more supportive back in 2016? Yes, 100 percent,” he said, per NFL writer Paul Kuharsky.
He also said he’s talked to his black Titans teammates to better understand the inequality and experiences with police officers they’ve endured.
“The first step is awareness and education,” he said. “Once we can have that education and awareness, we can work together toward finding that equality that I’d hope we all want. I just have to be true to who I am and support what I know is right. I am going to fight for what I believe is right.”
Tannehill has joined a large number of NFL players who have supported or joined the protests happening around the United States and the world condemning systemic racism and police brutality. And the 2020 season may see a large number of those players take a knee before NFL games, much as Kaepernick did four years ago.
“Just four years ago, you’re seeing Kaepernick taking a knee, and now we’re all getting ready to take a knee together going into this season, without a doubt,” Washington running back Adrian Peterson said Sunday.