Most NFL players have social media accounts, although some have been known to cease activity during a season or back away when the trollers get to be a bit too much. Like the millions of others who utilize the different platforms of social media, players are no different and, like the rest of us, express their opinions to varying degrees.
One Minnesota Vikings player who is very active in social media is defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. He has been very involved for years with the world of social media – to the point that he was selected as the Vikings social media star in a poll of ESPN beat writers.
So it came as no surprise that, in the aftermath of the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota and the subsequent killing of five police officers at a Black Lives rally in Dallas last week. Floyd took to Twitter to weigh in.
Floyd was also at Nike’s annual summer football camp for elite prospects called The Opening. As a former Florida Gator, Floyd was a natural to be interviewed by the website SEC Country. He was asked about his reactions to what has taken place since the multiple senseless tragedies and Floyd wasn’t at a loss for words.
Floyd has commented previously on the Black Lives Matter protests, one of which was designed to hamper light rail on the day of a Vikings game last fall. His life experience has given him insight to the problem, which has gone on for decades and only seems to be getting worse in recent years with fatal shootings being the result of what appear to be random sets of events.
“This is a reoccurring thing that’s now escalating and putting everyone’s safety at risk,” Floyd told SEC Country. “Growing up I was exposed to so much violence that shouldn’t have been seen as a child. Now to see it all happening again on a much larger scale around the country, it’s discouraging and sad. That’s not the way to live.”
With any public figure who expresses an opinion on a hot-button issue, there is always the backlash of criticism that comes against them. Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe famously put himself in the middle of the same-sex marriage controversy when it became a hot election topic in Minnesota – not to mention getting vilified for his numerous expletive-laden Deadspin missives.
Those who live outside of the spotlight have carte blanche to espouse very pointed opinions on the topics of the day – whether social, economic or political. But, for some reason, when a celebrity – be that person an athlete, a singer or an actor – there is the tendency for those living in the shadows to raise their ire toward someone in the limelight stating his or her own opinion.
Some football programs – college and pro – discourage players from using social media for anything other than promotional posts because their comments can occasionally blow back on the program or individual. Floyd believes that he not only has the right to speak his mind, he has a responsibility as a role model for kids who look up to him as one of their sporting heroes to give his opinion – because it might help influence how others may view the situation.
“A lot of people want us to shut up and not say anything, but I think we’ve passed that era now,” Floyd said. “It’s time for us to speak up and start talking. A lot of people look up to us and listen to what we say. I was surprised the more I started tweeting how many people talked back and responded to me intelligently. They weren’t just jerks about it. Those kind of conversations are needed.”
Because of the natural divide between athletes and the public, much of what is heard from them is based on the X’s and O’s. Occasionally, players will open up in one-on-one interviews and give an insight into their lives – it was learned in the aftermath of the Adrian Peterson child abuse charges that the outrage of using a switch as a disciplinary tool varied greatly by what portion of the country in which a person was raised.
Athletes aren’t asked their opinions on social issues very often because the focus of the rest of the population is how the team is going to do on Sunday, not a player’s view on the November elections. Floyd believes players should be more active in expressing their opinions because, like it or not, athletes have a reach to young people that most adults don’t … and their words can impact change.
“I think athletes can make a huge difference, more than we think,” Floyd said. “No one has heard us speak on that magnitude and be serious. Only thing they know from us is that we play a game on Sunday. Some of them, that’s all they want from you. It’s wise to show who we are as individuals. We have hearts, too. We’re pegged as superstars or celebrities, but none of that truly matters when stuff like this starts happening.”
Floyd believes the best way to try to impact change on the cycle of violence is for more people to band together to show that the vast majority of people simply want to coexist. As a member of the Vikings, Floyd is capable of imparting a message of peace to youngsters who haven’t been jaded by the divisive opinions that seem to permeate with the adults around them.
Floyd is saddened that kids growing up now are mindful of school shootings, church shootings and police-related shootings as commonplace. He hopes he can be a voice of change.
“The next step is we need to come together to keep the cities that we live in safe,” Floyd said. “These kids see all this stuff going on and think it’s normal now. I want to keep going to back to schools, getting kids on the right path and teaching them what I know. I’m a peaceful guy. I like to lay low, have fun, relax and enjoy life. I can’t do that with everything that’s happening. We honestly need to stop all the violence and just be peaceful. It’s not hard to wake up, smile and have a good day.”
The more people who take that approach as youngsters may carry it through to adulthood. As someone who experienced violence as a kid, Floyd is speaking out against it and wants to be a catalyst of change. He should be applauded for it.