BALTIMORE – Josh Woods has had enough.
“It’s time. This isn’t a separate incident. Yes, this is in honor of Brother George Floyd, but these aren’t separate incidents.”
Woods just finished a ‘powerful team meeting’ with the Bears before heading out on another day of protesting in the streets of Baltimore.
“Just a couple years Baltimore had its own – Freddie Gray. The fact that we’re right back in this situation is heartbreaking. Honestly, it’s heartbreaking.”
The 23-year-old linebacker is marching alongside thousands in his hometown to encourage others to speak up.
“If you’re not talking right now, it comes from a place of self-preservation, I feel like in a way. Or maybe, confusion. I want guys to use their platform. I can’t just tell guys to use their platform. I have to use my own. I’m not afraid of losing fans or losing out on money or endorsements. I’m not afraid of any of that because it transcends way beyond football.
“I think the majority of people who may be confused get a sigh of relief when they see the police. Growing up as a Black man, there is never a sigh of relief when you see police. Driving on a highway, minding your own business, going to and from work – haven’t done anything wrong, you just woke up and brushed your teeth and stepped outside – but driving past a cop, your hands will start sweating. People don’t understand what it’s like to be targeted, literally targeted. I’ve gotten replies back like ‘Oh, but nobody’s picking on you. Just follow the law.’ How many times do you have to hear that this is an innocent man? Not only are these innocent men, but at what point, do people have the ability to take another man’s life with no repercussions?”
Woods spent the weekend spreading a similar message.
“For the most part it was a peaceful protest. There were times where we did have a couple of agitators who might throw a water bottle at cops who were barricaded in front of City Hall. I’m going to be honest. The police, honestly, haven’t – from what I’ve seen – been brutal or aggressive. The protest hasn’t gotten out of hand here. Yesterday, we had an interaction with a police officer, who seemed like he was just happy to see young Black men doing something positive, something awake.
“You see people with signs – people of all races, of all colors just wanting justice. There wasn’t much looting going on. These people were actually here for justice in front of City Hall. Got hit with some tear gas, but we made it out.”
As for his thoughts on the looting and the vandalism that he did see?
“Things can be replaced. Lives can’t. If you want me to be brutally honest, the way that you get the White man to listen to you is through his pockets. This is an outcry from the community. I’m not saying that nobody has a personal gain from these things, but this is beyond a brand name. This is something that can’t continue. People can’t be replaced. We’ve tried the silent knee. We’ve tried the peaceful gatherings. It’s not working. Everything that I know about this country has come from violence. This land was stolen. If you want change – if you really want change – desperate times call for desperate measures. I don’t think violence is the answer to protests. I’m not mad at them.”
Woods hopes the African American community’s concerns will be heard this time and people from all walks of life can still come together.
“We’ve got to talk about it. We’ve got to be comfortable being uncomfortable. We’ve got to talk about it. If you don’t know about it, you’ve got to learn about it. The only way for people to learn about it is for us to talk about it. There’s way too many resources out there now for people to not have access. I can’t necessarily blame people because they only know their own experience. But, what I ask people to do is just have an open mind. Listen to the cries. This isn’t all for not. This isn’t for no reason because people are bored. People have had enough. This is everyday life for the Black American, male or female.”