Why Leslie Frazier believes this could be watershed moment for racial injustice

Buffalo Bills vs the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field in Jacksonville on January 7, 2018. Photo by Craig Melvin.

It was a powerful 45 minutes that Bills assistant head coach Leslie Frazier spent with the media on Thursday. In the wake of the inexplicable murder of George Floyd and the week of protests that have followed, Buffalo's defensive play caller believes this could be the moment where real change begins.

Calling the video of George Floyd's final moments "traumatic" and "tough to watch," the outpouring of emotion, cause to action and genuine apologies he has witnessed and experienced leaves Frazier encouraged that this time things could truly be different going forward.

"Seeing the results and what (the Floyd video) created across the country, I really appreciate the outpouring of love you see from people, and the passion and the empathy, as well," he said. "It seems like it could very well be a watershed moment for our country. It definitely got a lot of people's attention like never before."

Frazier, who along with other members of Buffalo's coaching staff, expressed the importance of getting involved in enacting real change with racial inequalities with their players, is hopeful that the collective energy generated from the senseless killing of Floyd will prompt them to embrace that responsibility.

"Hopefully this will galvanize our players and other players within our communities, whether it's in Buffalo or wherever you're from to get down to the grassroots level and use your platform to make a difference," said Frazier. "There's an opportunity that we have as athletes, as coaches. We can make a tremendous impact, using this pedestal that we have. Our voice needs to be heard and we need to get involved. Not sit back and wait on others to initiate change. We need to be involved.

"I talked to them about a quote that Mahatma Gandhi made, 'Be the change you want to see in this world.' That can be us because of the platform that we have as athletes. Hopefully our guys will get involved and we'll stick together as a group and make a difference in this time."

To develop action plans requires communication and understanding. That's something Frazier, along with head coach Sean McDermott and other members of the coaching staff are trying to promote in their own locker room.

"It's so important that we all educate ourselves on the things that are going on in our world in our culture today," said Frazier. "And then the other part of it is the communication. Making sure that we're communicating across racial lines and we think that's extremely important. And that's something we wanted to make sure that we hammered home.

Players were encouraged in Thursday's meetings to talk about a concern if they have one concerning racial divides.

"We're supposed to be in this as one. If we can't talk about issues without feeling uncomfortable doing it, well, let's take that out of it," he said. "Let's do what we think is the right thing to do to help us be a team, be unified. Because this is something that we need to be unified around. We may have some difference of opinions in some areas, but this is one area where we need to be unified as a group and make sure that we all fight the same fight. I think our guys got that message but time will tell."

The Bills have had a Social Justice Committee for three years. Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips invited more of his teammates to be a part of it Thursday to aid in devising constructive solutions and positive examples for the rest of society.

But the big reason Frazier feels this time will be different for racial injustice is the feedback he's gotten, particularly from white colleagues both current and former in the league.

"I've gotten a lot of calls throughout the week, some Caucasian, just asking me, 'Hey just talk to me about this, some of the things you've experienced,'" Frazier said. "I got an email today from a former GM in our league who just really poured his heart out about his inability in recognizing what some of the issues were. The videotape of George Floyd's death really brought it home to him. And he was very apologetic for the fact that he has not been as involved as he should have been in the past over the course of his life. He said I want to apologize to all my friends and make you aware that I'm going to do better. I'm going to be more involved. And I'm going to use the voice that I have, the influence that I have much more so than I ever have before and make a difference.

"When you hear comments like there have been many others. It gives you the feeling that maybe this is the time in our country where we're going to take some necessary steps to make things better as a whole, but only time will tell."

Knowing there have been protests in all 50 states at some point this past week has Frazier convinced that the country at large is recognizing social injustice much more than we have before.

"These are eye openers are for us all," he said. "In the past, it may have been a segment of the population that was looking at this and seeing it for what it really was. Now it seems more people are really having the seals taken off of their eyes and seeing things for what they really are.

"That's why I want our guys to understand that they have a golden opportunity at this moment, to use the platform that they have to get involved to make a difference in their own way. They can do it. They can do it. They're all leaders, but this is the time more than ever to step up and get involved."

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