Just about 300 miles southeast from where Vince Wilfork and his Houston Texans were preparing to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars later that day, Wilfork’s lifelong friend was shot -- three times -- by a police officer on the side of the highway at 3 a.m. Sunday morning.
The details are hazy, but what we know is this: In those early hours, 31-year-old Corey Jones had pulled over to tend to his failing car, was “confronted” by a plain-clothed police officer who never identified himself, was fired at five times and died shortly thereafter, with no dashboard or body cameras recording the incident.
Now Wilfork is speaking out about the shooting -- how he craves justice for his friend, how this death is just one instance of a larger systemic problem and how he plans to use the “platform” of the NFL as a launching point for these tough but crucial societal conversations.
“The crazy thing is it’s not the first time this [kind of incident] has happened,” Wilfork said at his team’s press conference Thursday. “We’ve seen a lot of this going on in society, but especially when it affects you personally … it just gives me an opportunity to speak about it.”
With his team playing in Miami this weekend, Wilfork will visit Jones’ family in South Florida as they all seek clarity about Sunday’s event and justice in its aftermath.
“We’re dealing with somebody that was shot dead,” he continued. “We have to try and figure out a solution [to this societal problem] … I think everybody needs to be held accountable, plain and simple."
“We’re going to continue to get justice and that’s how it is right now. I think sometimes we have a platform we can use for a certain purpose. This week, this is my purpose. To have the platform I have to speak about it, that’s what it’s all about.”
Wilfork’s words and cries for justice fit with the broader kindling of the Black Lives Matter movement in professional sports. The NFL’s St. Louis Rams, the NBA’s LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and others have all taken public action, using their respective platforms -- whether it was a football field or a basketball court -- to raise awareness of the issue and the need for immediate action.
On Thursday, Wilfork’s words echoed the raised hands and donned shirts of those other athletes. And, after last Sunday’s news, he now understands the significance of the movement on a personal, poignant level.
“[It’s] important for me to stand up and talk about this issue,” Wilfork said near the end of the presser. “[And] I’m going to use this platform [of the NFL] to deal with it.”
Also on HuffPost: