Bobby Wagner: 'Teaching the Truth' Critical to Improving Race Relations

Corbin Smith

SEATTLE, WA - Like many Americans right now, Bobby Wagner is "hurting and pissed off" when it comes to race relations. The tragic death of George Floyd and the resulting protests over the past week have served as a painful reminder about how far the nation still has to go on the road to equality.

Admittedly, the Seahawks star linebacker doesn't have all the answers to the systemic racism that continues to plague our county. But, after participating in a protest in Seattle on Saturday himself, Wagner spoke with media members for nearly an hour on Monday, offering his thoughts on what he saw and what can be done to improve the situation.

While attending a demonstration that started out "very peacefully," he saw firsthand how quickly a situation could escalate when a protester threw an object at police officers, causing canisters of tear gas to be deployed. After Wagner watched reports about the protest in the news, he realized the extent to which the media holds the cards for setting the narrative. During an opening three minute statement, he implored reporters to focus on the purpose of the demonstrations, rather than diverting all the attention to the rioters and looters aiming to stifle their cause.

"Report the peaceful side of the protests as well. Report the people that are doing good, because there’s a lot of people doing good out there," Wagner advised. "There’s a lot of people that want to see the world change and don’t want to see the world like this anymore. We want to feel good to have our kids in this world, and it has to mean something to you guys. I feel like it doesn’t really hit home until it happens to you."

From Wagner's perspective, education - or the lack thereof - has played a pivotal role in reaching this current boiling point. It is admittedly difficult for many Americans to empathize with the challenges that black Americans face. Some cannot or will not put themselves in another person's shoes and that lack of perspective can lead to conflict.

"I challenge you guys to educate yourselves on what it’s like to be black in America. I definitely feel like we have to educate ourselves as well because there’s a lot of things that they’re not teaching us in school, we’re not learning in schools and we need to figure out why that is. Everybody’s supposed to be getting the same education but we all know that’s not the case, and we need to fix that."

When asked about how America's educational system can be fixed to help remedy a problem that has persisted for centuries, Wagner first suggested there needs to be increased emphasis on "teaching the truth."

From slavery to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the history books are littered with examples of racial tension that may not be depicted accurately in the classroom. Wagner feels schools could be doing a better job about explaining the realities of the country's checkered past.

Additionally, Wagner believes the equality issue can be seen in the opportunities for education provided to students in inner city schools compared to other public institutions. It's often not a level playing field.

He explained that assistance with life skills can also make an impact, citing a simple task such as being taught how to write a check.

"In the inner cities, we aren't taught that. We're taught how to survive, how to work for someone versus owning something. I feel like we need to better equip our youth with better knowledge." 

As one of the top linebackers in the NFL, Wagner understands he has the platform to bring attention to these topics and invoke meaningful positive change. But he knows he and other players can't do it alone and hopes that members of the media and others will help relay his message. 

Reflecting on the team's latest virtual meeting, which centered around players expressing their feelings about current events and didn't touch on football, Wagner wrapped up the press conference by thanking the Seahawks for the support they have given to him, teammates, and the community.

“It was kind of hard for me to focus on football or focus on anything other than what was going on because if you looked from whatever you were doing, all you saw was what was happening and it makes it tough. So being able to speak about it was definitely helpful and I’m grateful we have an organization that understands.’’