Less than 48 hours before lining up against the Bills for Week One, Jets tackle George Fant didn’t want to discuss anything football related. He had more pressing matters on his mind.
Fant wanted to ensure conversations about social injustices remain at the forefront during his first time speaking with the media since the spring. The offensive tackle mentioned he attended an event with the late Breonna Taylor’s family over the summer, and the affect that had on him.
Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in Louisville, Kentucky March 13. Fant, who signed a three-year, $30 million contact with the Jets April 23, played high school football in Kentucky and went on to play at Western Kentucky University.
“Being a person from the Kentucky area, that sticks so close to me,” Fant said during a Zoom call Friday. “And having a chance to be around the family of Breonna Taylor, I want to keep my focus on Breonna Taylor and social injustices. So let’s just focus it on there.”
Many athletes have held social-justice only media conferences in the weeks and months following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake.
“Just to sit on those steps with her family and just feel that hurt and talk to her family a little bit, it’s heartbreaking,” Fant said. “Even right now, I’m getting some goosebumps just thinking about it again. It means a lot to be around them and I just want them to know I’m here for them.”
Fant said this has been a difficult summer for him. As a father of three children, he’s already had discussions with his eldest son — just 4 years old — about staying safe.
“Everyone I feel like has that story ‘It could have been me’ or ‘It could have been my kids’ and it’s sickening,” Fant said. “It’s so scary just to know that, honestly, it could have been me. I could have been Jacob Blake. I could have been with my kids and that could have been me.”
Fant, who was voted a team captain, credited the Jets’ handling of social justice issues, and said even if his teammates have different beliefs than his, he wants an open dialogue.
Jets coach Adam Gase said the team was “close to finalizing” what it will do Sunday regarding the national anthem.
“What we talked about is making sure before we got on that plane, we knew how we were going about everything,” Gase said.
In Thursday’s NFL season-opener, the Texans decided to stay in the locker room during the national anthem. Afterward, Kansas City and Houston players locked arm-in-arm for a “Moment of Unity.” Some of the Kansas City fans booed this moment.
“To hear that booing, obviously it wasn’t good,” Fant said . . . “For me, that’s horrible. We just want to be treated equally, everyone needs to be treated the same, everyone needs to be held accountable and for people to boo, it’s unbelievable.”
Notes & quotes: Despite returning to practice Friday, it’s uncertain if safety Marcus Maye (ankle/calf) will suit up Sunday. Maye said “I think I’m going to leave that up to the coaches . . . that’s up to them and their decision.”
Mekhi Becton, the Jets’ No. 11 pick in the draft, is looking forward to his first start.
“It’s a lot of excitement and it’s a lot of nerves,” he said. “It’s my first NFL game, but I’m really excited and just can’t wait to get out there.”