Four days after he and his NFL teammates led a protest march through downtown Denver in support of social justice and racial equality, Von Miller has penned a powerful, cautiously hopeful essay on the urgency of the moment.
Writing for Time, the Denver Broncos linebacker and Super Bowl MVP reflects on his own firsthand encounters with racism growing up, including in elementary school, at the hands of a high school football coach, through college and even in the present.
“Since George Floyd died, tears have overcome me at least once a day,” he writes. “I have felt this pain in varying degrees for as far back as I can remember.”
Miller adds: “It’s an emotional pain. It’s a physical pain. It is the pain of oppression in a country that’s supposed to be free.”
Despite having achieved celebrity, wealth and extraordinary success on and off the football field, Miller says he still identifies with the long string of Black men whose lives have been brutally and unjustly cut short.
“I am George Floyd,” Miller says. “I am Ahmaud Arbery. I am Tamir Rice. I am Eric Garner. I am Philando Castile. I am Alton Sterling. I am Oscar Grant. I am Trayvon Martin. I am Emmett Till.”
Miller urges readers and NFL team owners to confront the current moment, which “has been building up for years, decades, generations.” The alternative, he says, is to give in to complicity and “the perpetuation of our disease because we refuse to admit we are ill.”
But he nevertheless sees reason for hope.
“This time may be different,” Miller writes. “I pray that it is different. This time, many of the protesters are not black. This time, the entire country is engaged. This time, the entire world has taken notice. We have really begun to talk with each other, not just ‘at’ each other.”
Miller concludes: “I am not a football player named Von Miller. I am Von Miller ― a strong, proud, African-American who loves making kids smile, people laugh and my parents shake their heads. I also just happen to play football, which has given me a platform. My love for our country compels me to use it.
“I am all in for unity, equality and justice. If you are committed to that, we can ride together. Let’s goooo!”