Dad, you’re a leader – what are you going to do?
Former Green Bay Packers running back Darrell Thompson answered the question of his youngest son, Race, with action. The two marched peacefully in Minneapolis on Friday afternoon, protesting the death of George Floyd after Floyd was detained by police Monday. Four police officers were fired and one, Derek Chauvin, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Race Thompson, a basketball player at Indiana University, was moved to act in some way, so he and his father did what they felt they could in that moment.
“It was heartwarming,” Darrell Thompson said of the march. “It felt like we had made progress as people and as a community. There were people from the faith community, from the sports community, from the business community. Even the media was out there.”
Protests and riots began in Minneapolis on Tuesday, and the offices of the Bolder Options outreach program directed by Thompson were two blocks from the epicenter of protests that included fires and property damage over the ensuing days.
Thompson, one of the Packers' first-round draft picks in 1990, is the University of Minnesota's all-time leading rusher and has been in and around Minneapolis nearly his entire life. He only goes into the office a few days a week while working through the coronavirus pandemic safely and headed there early Friday.
“I drove by the site where George Floyd was killed and I drove by a building that was on fire – just a lot of unrest,” Thompson said.
Thompson said the looting and property destruction was heartbreaking, particularly because the families and kids Bolder Options works with have been left without easily accessible grocery options. Thompson said he and his staff had hours-long emotional conversations about their feelings but also about how to help.
“I want us to engage and talk to our families and talk to the mentors and talk about this situation,” Thompson said. “We need to get better and do better as a community,”
But, there remained a bigger sense of community. The Thompsons recalled stories from Darrell’s father, George, who regretted not marching in the 1960s protests in St. Louis.
“It’s also a different time,” Darrell Thompson said. “The walk was different in 1960 versus 2020. There’s a lot of white people on our side. Back then, if you were white on the side your house could be burned down. It was different. Now it feels like it’s the majority of people on our side, this is wrong. We’re not fighting the majority anymore, we’re fighting the minority. Which (Race) recognizes, too. He’s bi-racial but he still feels ‘this is my pain.' My daughter said, 'Dad, that just as easily could have been you.' I said I fully understand that. I’ve understood that for 50 years. When I born I probably didn’t understand but from the time I was 4 or 5 years old I pretty much knew what was going on and who I was and what could happen.
“I don’t know. It’s been an interesting time for our family.”
Packers receiver Davante Adams addressed the unrest Sunday in a series of tweets:
Packers offensive lineman Billy Turner, who grew up 10 miles from Minneapolis and does foundation work in the city, posted a piece of scripture on his Instagram page on Thursday, quoting Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Packers kicker Mason Crosby tweeted a message Friday that read: “i’m not black, but i see you. i’m not black, but i hear you. i’m not black, but i mourn with you, i’m not black, but i will fight for you.” Crosby also included the hashtags #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, #BeTheChange and #NoExcuse
Packers tight end Jace Sternberger posted a tweet decrying racism Saturday night:
Over the last week, many Packers players have posted messages on social media about Floyd’s death and ensuing civil action in Minneapolis. Safety Adrian Amos said on a call with local media Wednesday that Floyd’s death and ensuing discussions were important to effect change.
“It’s a sensitive subject for a lot of people, but I think it’s something that needs to be more than just talked about,” Amos said. “We need to start coming up with different solutions to avoid situations where, you know, people are losing their lives.”
And Thompson believes the strong messages and actions of athletes hold real value.
“I think it’s how change is gonna happen quite honestly,” he said. “Sports is part of it. Politics is part of it and business is part of it. And they all co-mingle nowadays."