NFL player Benjamin Watson’s long, heartfelt reaction to a grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown Jr. has quickly gone viral.
The New Orleans Saints tight end expressed his thoughts on Tuesday night in a Facebook post that has been shared more than 340,000 times and “liked” by more than 600,000 Facebook users. He notes that he was either playing or getting ready to play a game against the Baltimore Ravens when the announcement came down.
“I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes,” Watson wrote. He added that he was frustrated by pop culture’s glorification of confrontations between police and citizens."
“I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a ‘threat’ to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt,” he wrote.
That comment seemingly echoed a 2013 Facebook post by musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson that quickly took off after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin. In that post, the 6”2’, 300-pound drummer for The Roots (and currently "The Tonight Show") explains how he feels perceived differently.
“My friends know that I hate parking lots and elevators, not because they are places that danger could occur, but it's a prime place in which someone of my physical size can be seen as a dangerous element,” Thompson wrote. “I wait and wait in cars until I feel it's safe for me to make people feel safe.”
Watson also addresses larger issues of perception brought on by the looting and violent protests in Ferguson. He notes his embarrassment that the actions “only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.”
The football player’s nuanced reaction also noted that he didn’t know Wilson’s side of the story and that the decision had him reconsidering his own perspective.
“I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take ‘our’ side without looking at the facts in situations like these,” Watson wrote. “Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me?”
Watson’s Facebook post joined a chorus of social media posts from famous athletes responding to the decision not to indict Wilson. LeBron James, Serena Williams, Kobe Bryants, and Earvin “Magic” Johnson were among those who shared their thoughts online.
“Violence is not the answer people. Retaliation isn't the solution,” James wrote under a illustration of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin.
Watson ended his Facebook post on a hopeful note. “I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem,” he wrote, adding that he was looking to Jesus and the Bible for the solution.
Read Watson’s full post here.