Upon the three-year anniversary of his Hall of Fame speech, LaDainian Tomlinson's poignant and passionate words are as timely as ever.
As introduced by MJ Acosta on NFL Total Access on Wednesday, "We'll look forward, by looking back." Which is what the longtime and all-time Chargers great did.
Tomlinson revisited his HOF speech three years to the day that he delivered it, looking to push the same message forward now as he did then, encouraging unity within the nation and taking the initiative to get to know those around you, no matter their race, religion or cultural background.
"I firmly believe that God chose me to help bring two races together under one last name: Tomlinson," Tomlinson said in his 2017 induction speech. "I'm of mixed race and I represent America. My story is America's story. All our ancestors, unless we're American Indian, came from another country, another culture. Football is a microcosm of America. All races, religions, and creeds living, playing, competing side by side."
Tomlinson explained Wednesday that the inspiration for his speech came from the onset of the Black Lives Movement, citing the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice.
"The Black Lives Matter movement started to be more defined. And all this time, as I'm writing my speech, I'm thinking, man, this is starting to touch me and I need to do something about it," Tomlinson said. "Well, we know Colin Kaepernick also protested and he kneeled, obviously for police brutality. And so, I said, what bigger way than the Hall of Fame induction, what platform can you have that's bigger than the Hall of Fame? How can I use this platform to address the nation and create some [kind] of a template on how to come together as one. And so the idea for me, I talked about Team America in my speech. And the idea of Team America, when you think about a team, what's the most important thing about a team? It's unity, it's coming together, and really not caring about one's background, one's race, one's religion, any of those things. You come together on one common goal, and that's to, in sports, it's to win.
"And so that idea of Team America to me is a concept and an idea that we need, as a nation, is to be united, is to really care about our neighbors."
While the tragedies of years ago kindled the passionate words in Tomlinson's speech, they ring true today, as well, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, as well as multiple others. And so Tomlinson's message was maintained and still as impassioned as ever.
Going forward, his hope and advice is to reach out to those you live among and get to know them no matter the differences in your life.
"You have to take the chance and the opportunity to get to know someone that doesn't look like you," Tomlinson said. "Both of my neighbors are Caucasian, but you know what? We've gotten to know each other. They know me as well as I know them. And I think, as a country, we need to do more of that. We need to do more talking to our neighbors and befriending people that don't look like us.
"One of my favorite lines in that speech, MJ, was about America is the land of opportunity. Let's not slam the door on those who may look different from us, rather open it wide for those who believe in themselves. That anything is possible. To me, that's opportunity. For all of us, we all want a better society, we all want that. But we have to work a little bit harder to make that happen. To me, that's the idea of Team America, that's the idea of the American spirit that we all need to have."