NFL's Young Leaders 'Get It' in Struggle to Empower Marginalized People

Brandon Scott
June 03, 2020 - 1:06 am

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and outside linebacker Jacob Martin are both just 24 years old.

Think about that for a second. 

Born in 1995, they arrived in the midst of the O.J. Simpson verdict -- a time in which racial tensions had been elevated by police brutality against black people, the apparent lack of accountability for it, and then a black former athlete’s acquittal of viciously killing two white people. 

They’re not old enough to remember any of it.

The world they have grown up in is far different, and better, than the one given to their parents and grandparents. 

Yet, at age 24, they are marching against the injustice carried out not just against George Floyd, but the pattern they have been able to notice in a short time. 

Related: Deshaun Watson, Jacob Martin Attend Downtown Houston March For George Floyd

Being born in 1995 puts them at the same age as the late Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death at age 17 after he was erroneously reported as a suspicious person in a neighborhood. 

In fact, Trayvon Martin would be a few months older, which means both Deshaun Watson and Jacob Martin were teenagers and young adults as that tragic story played out.

They are of similar age to Michael Brown, whose death in Ferguson, Missouri ignited similar unrest and protests.

Even at 24, they have to be tired. 

Jacob Martin told the Houston Chronicle that this -- being mistreated by police in the way that resulted in George Floyd’s death --  has been happening to black people for far too long. 

The march Tuesday in downtown Houston, along with similar demonstrations around the world, have been about empowering black, brown and marginalized people, he said.

That's what this movement is about -- to create change, to want change," Martin told Mark Berman of Fox 26.

While it’s far less likely for either to find themselves in George Floyd’s situation, they understand as black men in America, it’s not out of the question.

Black people are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people, despite representing just 13 percent of the country’s overall population. 

As recently as 2014, black people constituted 34 percent of the American prison population. That’s 2.3 million people. 

Black and Hispanic people make up roughly 32 percent of the U.S. population, but made up 56 percent of all incarcerated people in 2015. 

A lot of our favorite athletes today, like Deshaun Watson, came of age with all of these realities in the backdrop.

The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd put it at the forefront.

There is a complicated relationship between law enforcement, the criminal justice system and black people. 

It’s a relationship that needs to be less complicated, but more fair and accountable.

The images of George Floyd pleading for his life made that clear to J.J. Watt, who last week called the officers’ actions disgusting.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for fans to get to know these athletes, and all of what makes them human.

Deshaun Watson could have easily been Trayvon Martin.

Andre Johnson could have easily been George Floyd. 

It’s not unreasonable to say we’re fighting for our lives here.

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