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Thomas Davis: NFL players using voices in 'right way'

Athletes speaking out in regard to issues outside the confines of the playing field is hardly a novel turn of events.

But has there ever been a time in which so many athletes were speaking out and has there ever been a moment in which voices were being heard as loudly? Since George Floyd was killed while in police custody, players have spoken, players have protested and players have worked to bring to an end social injustice.

Steve Wyche hosted another round table discussion Wednesday evening on NFL Total Access with Redskins linebacker and former Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Thomas Davis, activist, professor and attorney Maya Wiley and longtime sports journalist J.A. Adande.

At the root of the discussion was whether NFL players are finally exerting their influence.

Davis, a 14-season veteran, believes players are bringing about change and the league is listening.

"I think that these guys are using their voices and they're using them in the right way," the longtime former Panthers linebacker said. "It's all about doing things to create change. And, creating that video, you look at the video and some of the guys like Michael Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins and some of those other guys were able to put on, I think it really kind of forced the NFL's hand to really listen -- to listen to these players. Because so long, guys wanted to do things. They wanted to protest, they wanted to really voice their opinions on how they felt, but you kind of felt [a] stronghold, if you did something or you said something, then you would kinda be put in the position that Colin Kaepernick has been placed in and kinda black-balled, so to say, from the league. But when you look at Commissioner Goodell come out and make a statement saying that black lives matter, saying that they were wrong in not listening to the players. I think for us as players, it speaks volumes. It shows that the NFL is starting to get it. They're starting to listen and now we can start to see some of the change within our league that we wanted to see as players."

A great number of players are speaking out and a great number of high-profile players are doing so as well.

For Adande, the magnitude of star players speaking out has been hugely impactful.

"There's a prominence that NFL players have and the ability and willingness to yield that power that they have," Adande said. "For the first time, the reigning NFL MVP and the reigning Super Bowl MVP are black quarterbacks. So it's one thing to score touchdowns, but the league and the public really values the people that throw the passes for those touchdowns. And increasingly, those are black faces. So, the presence of Patrick Mahomes in that video last week, really elevated the power of it. The reigning Super Bowl MVP, the future of the league, really, is an African American quarterback. And the power that he understands that he holds now, and we've seen the result. Roger Goodell basically bent the knee to use the Game of Thrones terminology. This is a shift, having so many prominent black quarterbacks, is really something the NFL hasn't seen."

While these might well be unprecedented times, the question will remain as to whether true change will come as a result.

Nonetheless, awareness on the topics of racial inequality, social injustice and racism has grown.

"I certainly think there's a huge potential for change – potential," Wiley said. "I think that the demonstrations themselves that have just galvanized the attention of the country, has clearly impacted public opinion.

"Two weeks of demonstrations have significantly increased America's understanding that racism and discrimination is still a problem and I think black athletes have played a substantial role in that over the past few years in helping to elevate that awareness, as well."

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