CINCINNATI — The entire Bengals organization visited the National Underground Freedom Center on Saturday morning.
All 80 players on the roster were accompanied by coaches and ownership, as they marched from Paul Brown Stadium to the Freedom Center.
The team released a statement about racial discrimination, before attending an educational presentation that was given by President Woodrow “Woody” Keown Jr.
"That was great for our team, our organization and our community to see Mr. Brown and the whole family there with us showing their support leading the charge towards change," Joe Burrow said. "A lot of guys and lot of people in this building have worked really hard to drive change and to find foundations we can support and events we can do to facilitate change. We are going to continue to do that. That was just one step in this process. One baby step."
Burrow and Trey Hopkins read the Bengals statement on social injustice before the presentation.
"Trey was the one that kind of wrote the mission statement, so he was going to read," Burrow said. "My teammates thought it would have a great impact if I read it. So they kind of asked me to read half of it. I wanted to make sure I didn't take away Trey's opportunity to read what he wrote, but they said that was OK and I should be the one that read the second half."
Education has been the most common answer that Bengals players have given when asked about potential change.
That's why going to the Freedom Center was so important. They had a chance to learn things that they didn't hear about in school.
"The number one thing that hit me was the fact the education system didn’t really educate me on a lot of topics," Burrow said. "The specific example would be the Black Codes in Ohio. I had no idea what those were. The people at the Freedom Center did a great job explaining that to me how you had to have a permit if you were Black in Ohio to live here. How you had to have two people vouch for you and play $500 so you could live in the state of Ohio. I had no idea. I had never been taught that information. So that was great for a lot of people to hear that information. I think it would be great for a lot of the people in the community to hear that."
The team has had multiple conversations about the experiences that the Black players have had on the team. Carlos Dunlap shared a story with the media from this offseason. It's one of the many that were told in the locker room.
"When you're a white player, you don't think about half the things that your teammates think about, things they have to talk to their kids about," Burrow said. "It just doesn't even cross my mind. And to hear that was really eye opening. I won't share any specifics because that's not my place, but there have been a lot of stories that have been eye opening."
Burrow believes that the Bengals are just getting started and that the entire organization is going to push for change.
"There is a plan in place we are going to roll out here in the next year," he said. "There are events being put on, money being donated and gathered for foundations. There’s going to be a lot of good that comes out of it."
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