Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard said last week that one of the biggest solutions to helping fix the racial divide and social injustice in society is through education.
Byard’s teammate, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, took his words to heart, using his platform to speak out against social injustice and point to the importance of education as a tool to battle racial intolerance.
“Education is a big part of it,” Tannehill said. “Educating people, white people, who don’t deal with it [and] to the reality of the situation. Just leveling the playing field. There’s a lot of legislature that’s going to have to get changed.
“I think the first step is awareness and education ... on the systematic injustices that have been going on for a long, long time. Once we can have that education, the awareness, then we can all kind of work together toward finding that equality that I’d hope we all want.”
Tannehill made a post on his Twitter account on May 27 addressing the murder of George Floyd, stating everyone deserves to feel safe and protected in their communities.
Tannehill also said that he wished he would have taken the Black Lives Matter movement more seriously a lot sooner, but his eyes were opened a lot through former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and several conversations with former Miami Dolphins teammate Kenny Stills.
“Do I wish I would have known more and been more supportive back in 2016? Yes, 100 percent, but we all make mistakes,” Tannehill continued. “We all have to live and learn and experience to grow, and I feel like I’ve done a lot of growing over the past four or five years…I hope to use what I’ve learned, just continue to educate myself, continue to learn and continue to try to push for change and make a difference.
“I think my conversations with Kenny (Stills) and just coming to realize what he’s gone through in his life — getting ripped out of a car with his dad and everything stripped out of the car for no reason, weren’t even speeding, left on the side of the road, they were traveling, all their clothes and everything, bags strung out on the side of the road. Things like that where it’s like, I can’t imagine being put in that situation and having to deal with that. You hear stories like that and then he gave me a bunch of resources, books that were written…Then I just started digging more and more into it as time went on. You go from kind of being naïve to the situation because of the [white] privilege, and my eyes kind of got opened to it. It was really kind of a shock for me…I think my views have definitely changed.”
While the NFL and the greater society still have a long way to go in addressing racial equality, Tannehill’s openness to have the difficult discussions and willingness to take the time to educate himself on such issues have earned him even more respect from his teammates.
“I respect Ryan (Tannehill) to the fullest,” Byard said. “That’s one thing about me, I don’t look at guys as race. Ryan and his family, his wife, have treated my family with nothing but love and I respect him just for the man he is. The fact that he’s speaking and using his voice to uplift others, black, white, or different ... it speaks volumes for his character. I will always treat him based upon that.”