JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Chris Conley had a powerful, emotional and moving speech on Friday morning as the Jaguars stepped to the forefront of the NFL to speak out against racism.
The Jaguars receiver stood on the steps outside the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and spoke about knowing the history around the plight of African Americans and how that fight continues today.
Conley’s voice cracked as he spoke about the statistics that said African American adolescents were more likely to be charged as adults than other races.
His speech encapsulated the morning.
This is a transcript of Conley’s speech provided by the Jaguars on Friday:
“Watching the events starting with Ahmaud Arbery, the video when it got released. I sat in my house upstairs in my office and I just began to cry because I saw someone who looked like me, someone who looked like my brother, someone who looked like my friends get shot down and fall on the street like an animal. That hurt me, because I’ve seen it time and time again, so forgive me if I’m long-winded, but I’m going to get through this. The events of the last few months have culminated and shook the nation for many opening their eyes to something the marginalized have pointed out the whole time. What I and others know is that these atrocities have been foreshadowed. They have been allowed to manifest because of years of systemic indoctrination and oppression. I urge you today, brothers and sisters, to know this history, study it, seek it, because through it, though it may make you uncomfortable, it will lead towards change. George Santayana said, ‘those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.’ The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘We are not makers of history. We are made by it.’ We cannot allow comfortability with revisionist history to disarm our minds and weaken our convictions. A confederate monument sits a couple of blocks from here, praising the south’s dark past. Our revisionist history would tell us that it’s there to honor men fighting for states’ rights. But true history would tell us that, in the Cornerstone Address, Alexander Stevens said that our states are built on the fact that the negro is inferior, and slavery and subordination is its normal and natural state. That’s true history. This monument sits a block from where the Ax Handle Saturday happened in Jacksonville. A block from it, reminding people in this city of what’s happened to them. True history would remind people that not only Confederate sympathizers butchered black people in the streets, but police joined them too.
Revisionist history is what allows us to believe that systemic racism isn’t real or that racism in it of itself is only isolated incidents. Not instilled by government back segregation. Not instilled by a history of bias in policing. Revisionist history is what allows people to say, ‘yes, these things happened, but that was the past. Can’t we just move on?’ Richard Rothstein said, “let bygones be bygones isn’t a legitimate wish if we wish to call ourselves a constitutional democracy.’ Protests like this one and peaceful protests across the country are fighting for our Constitution. They’re fighting for our democracy, so I plead that everyone out there will get out and they would demonstrate, they would do it peacefully. And to those people that are trying to detract from this movement, who are trying to add on and instill hate and riots, we won’t let you hijack this moment. We won’t let you do it.
Fighting inequality that allows 20% longer sentences on average for African American men. Fighting inequality that allows black adolescents to be 18 times more likely to be charged as adults. Everybody look around at the kids here, man. A black adolescent is 18 times more likely to be charged and convicted as an adult. That’s what we’re fighting today. We’re fighting inequality that would allow this league to marginalize and to leave players in 2016 when they stood up and said that there was a problem. That’s what we’re here to fight today. That’s what you’re all here for today.
Today, we say no more. Today, we see a nation that can’t await change, a city that won’t sit still or be quiet. Today, I’m surrounded by brothers and sisters of every color who rallied together to echo the cries of George Floyd. To echo the cries of Breonna Taylor. To echo the cries for Ahmaud Arbery and the countless others like them. Today, we’re encouraged. Today, we’re embolden. Today, we know that that change will come. Today, I am surrounded by you and I pray for you that you would abound in love and knowledge and deep insight, like Philippians 1:9 says. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Every woman and child and man can sustain this for more than just a moment and make sure this is a movement. Right now, I challenge all of you to learn this history, to learn our country’s true history, not so that it makes you comfortable but so that you can be empowered to go out and make true change. So that you can go out, as they say, and you can beat them at the ballot. So, you can weaponize the voters in this city to get people who will truly represent each and every one of us. Voters can do this right now. Movements like this can do this right now.
I want to say thank you. I want to say thank you to my black brothers and sisters who are out here. I want to say thank you to my white brothers and sisters who are out here. I want to say thank you to every single child who is out here, younger person who is out here because you’re seeing an example of what the future can be. You’re seeing an example of the future that’s fighting for you, right now. I’m fighting for you. When I saw that video, I saw you. I saw you. I saw you. I saw all of you. Thank you to all of you. This is only the beginning. Don’t let people rile you up. Don’t let people tell you that you’re not worth it. When they say Black Lives Matter, they’re saying Black Lives Matter because they’re hurt right now. We’re not saying they matter more. I hope everyone here knows that. But let’s show it. This is only the beginning here in Jacksonville. Let’s make sure that we maintain this momentum so this is not a moment and this is a movement.”