Bills pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King

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After Saturday night's epic Wild Card victory, all eyes are on the Divisional Round of the playoffs within the walls of One Bills Drive. Every hour is mapped out in terms of how players and coaches are spending their time and energy preparing for their next opponent. Concentration doesn't normally waver at this point in the season when there's one shared goal in mind.

But there are important days and events that come up during our busiest of times where it's important to pause, stop and think. Monday, January 17 is one of those days. The third Monday in January is known as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, one of the 11 federal holidays in the United States.

Several Bills players and members of the coaching staff stopped to share what Martin Luther King Jr. means to them and why MLK Day is so important to the ongoing fight for racial equality.

"When you talk about Martin Luther King, for me and I think most Americans, you're talking about a groundbreaker," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "He's a person who changed the trajectory of a race through the sacrifices that he made along with many others, and through his leadership and his guidance. And he paved the way for a lot of barriers being broken down."

"You can't really think about the Civil Rights Movement without what Martin Luther King's done for Black people in America," defensive tackle Harrison Phillips said.

MLK is the face of the Civil Rights Movement and was the leader of many marches that fought for basic civil rights like desegregation and the right to vote. In 1963, he led the historic March on Washington where he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. And almost 60 years later, people are still learning about the impact he had on the world.

"I don't think it's since the last couple of years of being an adult that I really realized what he was able to do," safety Micah Hyde said. "Just preaching love, just loving one another. It's as simple as that and just bringing along the minority that didn't have as many rights as the majority."

"For somebody to put his chest out and put his neck out there and speak the honest truth, I mean, that's somebody that you have to just respect and put that spotlight on him," left tackle Dion Dawkins shared. "There's millions of people on this planet and people would never take that route because it's a hard and scary route. So, for somebody like him to put his mind, put his heart and put his life on the line, it's truly a blessing to have somebody like that to even attempt to do that for a bunch of strangers in the world."

King fought for an equal world for all when many couldn't imagine one. He was scrutinized by many but that didn't stop him from preaching what was the truth and what so many deserved. After years of work, MLK was recognized for his courage and received the Nobel Peace Prize (1964), Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977) and Congressional Gold Medal (2004).

For many, MLK Day is about learning from the past and figuring out how it can be applied to today's fight for justice and equality for every minority.

"It's a day that everyone has to stop to think about what was done in the past for the Civil Rights Movement that was going on at that time, and also today what everybody can be doing to further what Martin Luther King started," tight end Dawson Knox explained. "So it can't be looked at as, 'Oh cool. That was one day several years ago.' But has to be taken into the present and needs to make you evaluate where you are on just social issues and social justice."

"It'd be ignorant for me to say that I can fully understand the depths of the impact that Martin Luther King Jr. had just because I've never had to walk a day in the life of a person of color," Phillips shared. "But I cannot speak enough on how important that was in our history. I wish it came earlier in our history. But Martin Luther King Day is a national holiday for a reason. It should be celebrated in every household in America for the impact that he had."

Households like the Hyde household will be sharing Martin Luther King's life story to the next generation.

"Martin Luther King really faced a lot of scrutiny and a lot of backlash just to further his people," Hyde shared. "And I know for my kids one day, I'm going to preach Martin Luther King and I'm going to preach just love and equality and hopefully one day that we can get to a world where everybody's preaching that."

And for the generation that got to experience firsthand how his influence changed the course for so many, they are forever grateful.

"To be able to go against the wave, when it wasn't popular, to stand up for what you think is right and be willing to do the ultimate sacrifice – 'I'm willing to give my life so that other people can have rights that I don't currently have,'" Frazier said of King Jr. "So much respect for the sacrifice of Martin Luther King Jr. and what he's meant to America and in particular to my race, African Americans. A tremendous sacrifice and forever grateful for his sacrifice."

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