Josh Norman has only spent a handful of days in Buffalo since signing in early March. But after a brief time in his new NFL home, the city has left a strong impression on the new Bills cornerback.
Norman was in town on Wednesday, along with New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis, to attend Mayor Byron Brown's press conference announcing police reform in the city.
Norman hasn't moved to Buffalo yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he thought it was important to visit during a five-city, six-day tour with Davis. The two are traveling the country in order to help bridge the gap between the police force, governing systems and communities to end racial injustice and police brutality. Mayor Brown addressed in his press conference that these immediate measures would just be the beginning of reforming police practices and achieving racial justice for the black community. After speaking with Mayor Brown privately and hearing what he had to say in his press conference, Norman was impressed by the swift action Buffalo has taken to address the city's problems. When Norman spoke, he challenged Buffalo to be a model for the rest of the world.
"We must become one," Norman said. "One race. Equality for all. It must happen. Why not start in Buffalo? Why not be here in Buffalo, New York? We went to all these places across the country so far. We have more to go. For the first time, we have not seen where the people and the government have come together in one setting to have a presser right now to put things in motion and be passed so you can see it happen."
Following the horrific killing of George Floyd and protests across the world as an outcry to end racial injustice and police brutality, Brown met with Free the People WNY and several community groups to hear their ideas and demands to advance racial equality and strengthen restorative policing in Buffalo.
Some of these immediate reforms Buffalo will see is an increased level of transparency when it comes to reviewing body camera footage, strengthening existing training programs that enhance officers' de-escalation skills and giving the explicit ban on chokeholds in the Use of Force policy.
"We will shift policing in Buffalo away from enforcement and to a restorative model that promotes stronger community bonds, civic engagement and an end to young black men, black people being caught in a cycle of crime and incarceration by consciously limiting their negative engagement with police," Mayor Brown said. "There must no longer be fear in the black community that an encounter with the police will involve discriminatory behavior, even worse, a fatality."
Norman has been an activist for numerous causes since he entered the NFL in 2012. Of late, Norman has been educating the youth, speaking on panels, and lending his strong voice to promote of the Players' Coalition and their work to fight to end systemic racism. When Norman saw the video of George Floyd being murdered, he immediately knew he had to become a champion for change.
"This was a challenge by any stretch of imagination going to all these cities and trying to actually talk to people on both sides and come to an agreement by meeting at the table," Norman said. "Right now the community is hurt. They want to be heard. They want someone to listen. And not only listen but find a solution to the problem that's going on right now. It's black people getting murdered by police officers, that's not right in any sense of imagination.
"Enough is enough, and they want to hear that. So we are the bridge between government, officials on the ground and the community. ... We just want to link that chain so communities can be better for all."
For the corner, being a football player is not what he wants to be known for. Norman wants to be known as someone who served his community, leaving it better than he found it.
"What is going to be left on your tombstone when your time comes," Norman asked. "Mine, I want to be a servant, not a football player. A football player for me is something to balance out the equation of finding the resources to give back to the people. That is who I truly am. When you look at that, what it looks like for you, what that looks like for others and for me it's bridging that gap and bringing people in the same room, to the same table. One race, one equality is what I see."
Norman has a challenge for us all. The cornerback is calling for radical change. He wants everyone to play a part in ending the racial injustice and police brutality the black community has faced for hundreds of years.
"We are all equal," Norman said. "Under one nation, under one God, unified. ... And that's what we stand upon. But, do we? We say we do, but is it truly real? So now we have the opportunity to end this, to eradicate all of that right now. This is the uprising. Truly, it is."
Norman appeared on NFL Network last week to speak on the same subject where he used an analogy of a Band-Aid to explain what has happened to too long. Norman said this problem has been Band-Aided up over again and again. Now, the Band-Aid has been ripped off and it's up to everyone to stitch up the wound by ending systematic racism right now.