Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, like the rest of us, has witnessed the state of our country over the past few days.
Protests are plentiful. Riots abound across the nation. Violence has reached striking highs in various cities. Social media has been taken over by a sea of black screens, meaningful hashtags, and inspirational quotes and messages from several renowned figures of both the past and the present.
The voice of the sports world has been one of the most prominent. Notable players and coaches have made passionate statements -- lengthy, concise, and everything in between -- on the matter.
Michael Jordan said he was “deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry” (via ESPN). Derek Jeter called for the denouncement of “insidious signs of racial hatred”. Doc Rivers recalled his own experiences with racism and called silence unacceptable going forward. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow drew heaps of praise and attention for his thoughts.
Lynn acknowledges the many statements released throughout the sports universe regarding equality and basic human rights (or the lack thereof), deep-rooted racism and oppression, the need for some voices to be heard and others to be silenced. He appreciates these statements, noting that he related with Rivers’ and Brian Flores’ statements specifically. He thinks they’re needed at this moment. He understands their purpose.
But he wants more than a statement.
“I don’t want to just put [a statement] out there because it’s the right thing to do,” Lynn told LZ Granderson of the Los Angeles Times.
And I, like Granderson and many others, am so, so happy he said that for numerous reasons. For one, as understandable as these protests, riots, and demonstrations are, the most important step is effecting change. Take the #blackouttuesday trend on Instagram, for instance. I took part in it. Hundreds of my friends and acquaintances took part in it. 18.1 million people, based on what the search is telling me, have posted an image with the aforementioned hashtag.
But is a social media post with a hashtag truly effecting change, or are people doing it because, like Lynn suggests, it’s the right thing to do? Should we consider it more of a first step, a solid starting point for further action? This is exactly the issue that Lynn was pondering when figures and coaches, left and right, started making statements on the issues at hand.
“I want change,” Lynn said. “I guess it starts with having this conversation and talking things out. In 1992 I remember watching L.A. Burn and here we are in 2020 and I’m watching it again and it just hit me, nothing has changed.”
“I want to do something, but to be honest with you, I don’t know what it is.”
There is the second reason I’m glad Lynn shared his thoughts, as it surely resonates deeply with people all around the globe. Supporting the movement through social media and through protests is what most of us are doing now. But many of us don’t know what to do beyond that. I don’t have the answer for you. Lynn doesn’t have the answer for you, either. But thanks to the fantastic interview from Granderson, who followed up and asked Lynn why he wants to do something, we may have a good starting point.
“I’m glad you asked me that,” Lynn said. “I want to make this a better world for the next generation and not just for minorities, but for everybody. I believe in diversity, I believe in inclusion and if you believe in that, you can’t just stand silent.
The next logical step for Lynn, then, was to not sit back and be silent. Lynn shared that he joined the protests in Huntington Beach, becoming a part of the experience and calling it “pretty intense”. But after taking in the protests, he sought out a meaningful conversation with the organizer of the protest and found out what he was protesting for. The answer was not what he expected.
“After the protests, what is this going to lead to?” Lynn said. “That’s when I got a little disappointed because there was no plan. The protest was there to help people express themselves but there was no endgame, no plan.”
And this is the third reason I’m happy Lynn discussed this whole situation. All Lynn wants to do, and what we should all be conscious of, is make sure that the actions we take actually work to make a change. This applies to a #blackouttuesday social media post. This applies to peaceful protests. This even applies to some of the more chaotic displays we’ve seen throughout the country.
As Lynn said, he doesn’t want to have to sit down and have another conversation about the same issues in the future, like he experienced from 1992 to now. May this be the start to an important change in the way we do things as a country, as a world, as an entire people.