CANTON, Ohio — Newly inducted Hall of Fame safety Kenny Easley addressed racial inequality in America during his enshrinement speech Saturday night at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Black lives do matter,” Easley said during his speech, which lasted nearly 30 minutes. “All lives matter, too. But the carnage affecting young black men today, from random violence to police shootings across this nation, has to stop. We’ve got to stand up as a country, as black Americans, and fight the good fight to protect our youth and our American constitutional right not to die while driving or walking the streets black in America. It has to stop.”
Easley addressed a topic that has caused many divisions in American society and is at the heart of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests about racial inequality. Kaepernick did not stand for the national anthem when he was with the 49ers last season and frequently addressed issues of race in comments to reporters.
He voided his contract with the team in March but has not signed a deal with another team. The Seahawks worked him out during the offseason but instead signed backup quarterback Austin Davis. The Ravens recently spoke to Kaepernick in the wake of Joe Flacco’s back injury, but team owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged concerns about fan reaction to signing Kaepernick. The Ravens said last week they still are considering him.
Easley apparently had planned in his speech to address Title IX legislation that prohibits discrimination based on sex for any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. But near the end of his speech, he said the teleprompter went out.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, which published a complete transcript of Easley’s speech, he had planned to say: “Congratulations to Title IX for 45 years of outstanding women’s sports in America. Even this very significant piece of legislation took a sizable fight. I also say congratulations to Claire Smith, a black American and the first female to cover a Major League Baseball beat and the first female to be awarded the Spink Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame committee.”
Mom knows best
Hall of Fame defensive end Jason Taylor gave thanks to his mother for raising him and for helping to convince him to keep playing football when he considered quitting.
During Taylor’s first season with the Dolphins in 1997, he called his mother after lying awake in bed and wondering whether it might be better if he came home. Taylor said she replied: “You come home, get a job, go into the military, or you get your butt back to bed and go to practice.”
‘You guys are my world’
Taylor, who grew up without a father, paid tribute to his three children in the audience for his speech.
“You guys are my world,” he said. “I’ve always believed that no matter what you do in life for a profession, I want to be the best dad. No level of success in any walk of life means anything if you don’t take care of what’s important first. I never had a father, and there’s no bigger honor, no bigger blessing, and there’s no greater job in this world than being a father.”
Taylor also tearfully remembered his former agent, Gary Wichard, who died of cancer in 2011.
“He was my agent, but he was so much more,” Taylor said. “He was an adviser, a mentor and he was truly the father I never had. For 14 years, not a day went by when I didn’t talk or text with Gary Wichard.”