Raw. Honest. Powerful. Emotional.
Those words can be used to describe Akiem Hicks’ play on the field when he suits up on the defensive line for the Chicago Bears. But they also represent how he spoke about very serious issues during a Zoom press conference with members of the Chicago news media today. It’s rare (and refreshing) to see an athlete speak so candidly about issues of such importance, but that’s exactly what we got from Hicks this afternoon.
Embedded below are some of the highlights from various Bears and NFL reporters. Check them out.
We’ll get to the Colin Kaepernick-Mike Glennon comments momentarily. Because while that’s grabbing more headlines, Hicks mentioned some other, powerful things in relation to Kaepernick and his movement at the time.
Akiem Hicks reflected on Colin Kaepernick's protests, saying many NFL players now wish they would've shown their support at the time.
"It's unfortunate that young man had to sacrifice his career to bring attention and light to it," Hicks said.
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) June 3, 2020
Akiem Hicks on whether or not Colin Kapernick would have gotten a contract had he not spoken out. "I just know that when he took a knee, he was silenced."
— Mark Grote (@markgrotesports) June 3, 2020
An active, high-profile NFL player telling reporters that players wish they would have been more supportive at the time is a large statement. As is going on the record to say that Kaepernick’s career was silenced when he spoke out. These are important things to digest in the grand scheme of things and the larger conversation we’re having as a society right now.
And then there was this:
Raw honesty from Akiem Hicks. Admits he was scared he would be "fired" if he knelt like Colin Kaepernick. Said what happened to Kaepernick validated his fears. Wonders how the NFL can rectify that situation. At the end of an answer, he said: "We signed Mike Glennon."
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) June 3, 2020
Yes, Hicks took a sideswipe at the Bears’ signing of Glennon. And the Glennon signing in Chicago was disastrous. This isn’t the time and place to re-visit his awful play, putrid stats, and inability to get the Bears offense moving in the right direction that took place over a four-game stretch.
To me, the bigger, more important revelation from Hicks was the admission that he was afraid he would lose his own job for kneeling like Kaepernick did. And if you’ll recall, Hicks had just signed a major extension before the start of the 2017 season. That a player who signed a sizable deal would still fear losing their job for participating in a peaceful protest speaks volumes of what things were like in 2017 … to say nothing of where we are now.
Here’s how moving Hicks’ press conference was today. NBC Sports Chicago’s Adam Hoge tweeted: “Twitter doesn’t do this justice, but Akiem Hicks now fighting back some tears. “I’ve been censored my whole life.”
It’s a powerful sentence, to be sure. But given the whole context gives it that much more meaning:
Had to take a moment to compose myself. I am captured with unbelievable emotion. I just asked @ChicagoBears @The_Dream99 how censored he feels that he has to be, as an NFL player, and an African American man. Here is his raw, honest, emotional, response: pic.twitter.com/41koQOTJfO
— StaceyDales (@StaceyDales) June 3, 2020
Equally as riveting is that Hicks had low expectations going into Monday’s meeting with the Bears:
Akiem Hicks was skeptical that a 2-hour #Bears meeting Monday in the wake of the George Floyd killing would help. He suspected it was the team trying to control the message.
Turns out, he said, it was the opposite.
"There was a level of healing," he said.
— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) June 3, 2020
Hicks admitting skepticism regarding the Bears’ Monday Zoom should hit home.
So often has been the case where important and necessary discussions and conversations take place, but go nowhere. It’s part of the reason we, as a society, have arrived where are right now. But that the opposite happened, and that Hicks described “a level of healing” having taken place is a step in the right direction toward a better future. More of this, please.
As for the protests that are happening nation wide, Hicks sees what is happening and noticed something different:
.@The_Dream99 on what’s different about the protests this time around: “There are a lot more ethnicities out on the front lines, speaking out and standing up.”
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 3, 2020
The visibility of people from different backgrounds coming together is not being lost on Hicks.
And in case you were wondering, he is ready for football:
Asked Akiem Hicks if he's physically healthy for football. (Hicks flexes) "You tell me bro." "I miss football, so I'm ready."
— Mark Grote (@markgrotesports) June 3, 2020
We’re ready, too, Akiem.
For more from Hicks, check out the full video interview below: