Larry Fitzgerald grew up in Minneapolis, and he says he spent much of his childhood less than a mile from where George Floyd was killed. Floyd’s death has gripped the nation, sparking protests in all 50 states and even other countries over social injustice and police brutality.
Fitzgerald being from Minneapolis and one of the most distinguished athletes currently on an NFL roster, many sought comment from him on what was going on in Minnesota. But Fitzgerald wasn’t ready to throw his thoughts out there right away, he had to see for himself.
“I wanted to get home and go participate in some of the protests and talk to some of the city leaders and get kind of a pulse for what was really going on...I wanted to emotionally engage in what was transpiring,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald got on a plane and went home where he said he was taking notes on interactions he was having with white people, black people, police officers and listening to different opinions.
“I wanted to gather all that and internalize it and see how I felt about it and be able to write my true feelings on paper where my words couldn’t be misconstrued,” Fitzgerald said.
About two weeks after Floyd’s death, Fitzgerald penned an essay for the New York Times, saying, “we are not listening to one another.”
Fitzgerald said he has been having conversations with his oldest child, his 12-year-old son, about what’s going on in the world with his son and teaching him about treating people with respect, holding people accountable and being a leader among his friends and in the community.
When Fitzgerald got back to Minneapolis, he said it was his 12-year-old son asking to go down to the protests and learn more about what was going on.
“That was something that I was really moved about,” Fitzgerald said. “We went down to south Minneapolis and participated. I was just really proud of him and his views and it was great to see a young person, 12 years old, who hasn’t experienced anything like that but being that socially aware. It gave me a lot of hope. And as a father, it makes you proud to see that you’re helping, contributing to raising a young man that is socially conscientious.”
Fitzgerald said he typically tries to stay away from things politically in terms of speaking out, saying he personally finds it more important to hear from elected officials and those who can affect change firsthand.
"But, I'm not naive to the fact that people look up to people in positions with platforms and I’m not naive to the fact that you potentially can make an impact," Fitzgerald said.
As for the Cardinals, Fitzgerald said the wide receivers group has had a tremendous opportunity to speak to each other about social issues and the current climate during virtual meetings.
Fitzgerald said the group has come together in a way that likely wouldn’t have been possible if they were on the field right now.
“Once you get out to practice, you’re not talking about social issues,” Fitzgerald said. “When you’re in a more virtual form, those things can be accessed and talked about in a much more readily available fashion. We’ve grown so much in the last few weeks and hopefully, we can continue to do that and also be able to get better in terms of our football knowledge.”
Fitzgerald commended NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on his video last week, where he said the NFL was wrong to not listen to players about social issues earlier on and that the NFL would be changing its tune. This came a day after highly respected players around the league, including Cardinals players DeAndre Hopkins and Patrick Peterson, put out a video asking the NFL to take a strong stance in the wake of George Floyd's death.
The NFL also announced this week it would recognize Juneteenth as a league holiday
“I’ve talked to him a lot, developed a really strong relationship with him and I feel like his heart is in the right place, he wants to be on the right side of history and wants to make sure he’s doing things to position our game to continue to grow and to be a game that’s loved and appreciated by everyone,” Fitzgerald said about Goodell.
While he’s been focusing on Minneapolis, Fitzgerald knows his voice is important in Arizona as well. He says he hasn’t paid too much attention to what has been going on in Arizona but he’s spoken with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and other people he respects in the state.
“I’ve said what I believed to be right in my heart and now it’s about the action, it’s about serving the community, closing the divide and that’s really where my focus is right now, trying to do that here (in Minneapolis) and trying to do that in Arizona and be a positive influence,” Fitzgerald said.