As we commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. and everything he strived for, Bills players know the fight for equality isn't over. Several players reflected on what today's holiday means to them and how much they believe Dr. King's presence is still needed today.
"We could use him right now with all of the chaos that is going on," offensive lineman Dion Dawkins explained. "Just that voice to keep everything level is something that everyone needs. We don't really have that voice anymore. It would be nice with everything that's going on to have that overview and that leader that is helping guide everything through in a calm and peaceful way because there's a lot of violence, a lot of chaos. If Martin Luther King was here, he would definitely make everything just that much better."
"It's a great day to recognize an American who wanted this country to be what it says it should be as the constitution says," defensive end Jerry Hughes shared. "Exercising that every man, woman, child, it doesn't matter what color you are, we should all be treated equally. That's a day that I look forward to the most out of any on the calendar just because of everything that he stood for, everything that he said. He was all about bringing the country together. He was all about bringing humans together as one so we can all love each other as we're supposed to."
The year 2020 woke many people up to the injustices the Black community and people of color face in our country every single day.
After watching George Floyd be murdered at the hands of the police, learning about Breonna Taylor being shot to death by police officers in her own home, seeing Ahmaud Arbery die for going on an innocent run and countless other deaths that followed, much of the country joined in to protest that Black Lives Matter. For the first time ever, the NFL decided to stand next to their players and recognize the injustices that many of them face.
The Buffalo Bills Social Justice Committee used the year to increase their involvement in the community by supporting many different causes. Due to their impact, the Bills are being honored by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown during his Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2021 Virtual Commemoration and Recognition Ceremony at 12 noon today. The event recognizes the legacy of Dr. King and honors those for their dedication to the community by following in Dr. King's footsteps.
Hughes, an 11-year veteran who entered the league in 2010, has seen the NFL vastly change for better since his rookie season. He remembers a time where he wasn't given the freedom to speak on racism or the world outside of football.
"I feel like personally the NFL has done a lot better job allowing us to be a part of and to speak on the Black Lives Matter movement," Hughes said. "Just because I've been in the league since 2010 back when I didn't have a voice, back when the only people who could tell the story was the media. I've watched some guys lose their careers just simply because they didn't have a voice.
"Now I'm in the NFL where you can speak. You can talk about not just football things, but you can talk about what's going on with society. You can talk about how they rushed the Capitol, how they stood on George Floyd's neck up in Minnesota and they're allowing you to express that. We have a social justice team, a unit here with the Buffalo Bills. When I was with the Colts that was never talked about, never even brought up. It was just more so play football."
The Bills Social Justice Committee awarded grants to several different organizations in the community that work towards providing equal opportunities for all, donated $40,000 to FeedMore WNY during their Thanksgiving Blitz, provided Buffalo Public Schools with a $500,000 grant to provide internet to those who needed it for virtual learning, donated more than $88,000 as a part of the Buffalo Business Blitz led by cornerback Josh Norman to support businesses impacted by the pandemic, spread awareness to the community about the importance to register to vote and participate in the census and much more.
Like many, wide receiver Stefon Diggs thinks the NFL's support to help fight racial injustice is just the start of something that could grow even bigger.
"I feel like we took some steps in the right direction this year as far as like not only bringing attention in the initiative that they've taken," Diggs explained. "Hopefully it continues to grow and continues to push everybody in the right direction not only with the words, but they fall in love with action. That means more than anything. You want things done, you want things to change and you want everybody to be on the same front. You don't want anybody to turn a blind eye to it, not only acknowledge it, but what actions are you taking or initiatives are you taking to change the world one step at a time."
As we step forward into a new year, Hughes is hoping for unity.
"I just hope that we can come together a lot more as a country," Hughes said. "Let's just stop the divisiveness that we've been having amongst each other…Just focus on what our country is truly about just everyone loving, respecting one another. None of this pointing fingers. Let's get back to having fun, let's get back to the America that I grew up in where people were excited about the new year, excited about sporting events, excited about going outside, having fun and interacting with one another."