Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Larry Fitzgerald spiked the football?
It was the first time ever—-and it was very likely the last.
After that game on October 28, 2018, an 18-15 victory over the 49ers, Fitz was happy the Cardinals won, but remorseful for choosing to spike the ball:
“I”ve never spiked a ball before in my life,” he told reporters. “I was a little frustrated and had a heavy heart today because my son Devin — my oldest son — didn’t want to come to the game today. My feelings were a little hurt, so I was carrying that around all day. So when I got in there, I kind of let it out.”
”To all the kids that are watching, I’m sorry I set a bad example today.”
On that afternoon, Devin had decided he would rather go to the state fair, than go cheer on the Cardinals and his dad.
“He didn’t want to come support us,” Fitzgerald said. “So I’m trying to pick up the pieces. I got to be a better father.”
Even though he was completely out of character when he spiked the football, the superstar WR’s reactions after the game were classic Fitz.
Number 1—-Fitz has never wanted anything to do with showboating. It has always been Fitz’s practice to simply flip the football over to the ref and hug his teammates following every one of his 119 other career TDs.
Number 2—-rather than put the blame on Devin, Fitz conceded that he needed to be a better father.
This is typically how Fitz reacts after the Cardinals lose games—–he talks about what he could do better to help the team win.
Well, now 20 months after spiking the football for the first time in his 16 years in the NFL, Fitz was fast at work being a better father for Devin, as the two of them visited Fitz’s hometown of South Minneapolis, Minnesota in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
Fitz wanted to speak out about Floyd’s senseless death, but he said “I wanted to take time to write down things I learned in my interactions with all kinds of people (blacks, whites, policemen, coaches, teammates), before speaking out—-which culminated in an essay he wrote for the New York Times that was published 8 days ago on June 7th.
In his NYT essay, Fitz concluded:
There are tens of millions of Americans from every race, religion, background and socioeconomic status that are trying to listen to one another and effectuate change — trying to imagine what it’s like to be George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery or the people who love them; trying to imagine what it’s like to be a business owner who has lost everything to rioters over the last few days; trying to imagine what it’s like to see through their neighbor’s eyes and live in their skin color.
We must work together to heal this divide and rebuild our communities by committing to let no voice go unheard. Our first step must be to listen to one another — to sincerely lean in and hear what the person who is different from us is saying.
George Floyd, in your final gasps for breath, we hear you.
Breonna Taylor, in your besieged home, we hear you.
Ahmaud Arbery, as your footsteps pounded the ground, running for your life, we hear you.
Victims of violence, poverty and injustice, we hear you.
Communities and lives torn apart by riots, we hear you.
People of privilege learning a better way, we hear you.
Mothers and fathers of every race doing the best you can to teach your children to love and not hate, we hear you.
May God give us all ears to hear so that the cries of the unheard are never again compelled to scream in desperation.
Fitz said that what he and his son Devin saw when they arrived in Minneapolis was not the hometown he grew up—-living back then within a mile of the street where George Floyd lost his life.
Fitz said that during his childhood he himself was never the victim of police harassment or of overt racial discrimination—-but he was well aware of the racial injustice all around him, particularly toward people of color.
“The streets you see in chaos now are the same streets I walked with my mother as she taught me about being active in the community. … For as long as I have known it, Minneapolis has been a city of peace, family and contentment. But not right now.”
Thus, Fitz has had to conduct the awkward and painful talks that every black father in America has to have with his son. But the more Fitz spoke with his son, the more he realized that Devin had already begun to figure out his own truths and feelings:
“I was really proud of him and his views,” Fitz said. “It was great to see a young person, twelve years old, who hasn’t experienced anything like that, being socially aware. Gave me a lot of hope.”
Devin asked his dad if they could join the protests.
“That was something that I was really moved about,” Fitzgerald said. “We went down to south Minneapolis and participated. I was just really proud of him and his views and it was great to see a young person, 12 years old, who hasn’t experienced anything like that but being that socially aware. It gave me a lot of hope. And as a father, it makes you proud to see that you’re helping, contributing to raising a young man that is socially conscientious.”
In terms of the NFL, Fitz said that he has had a number of meaningful conversations with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell—-“I’ve talked to him a lot, developed a really strong relationship with him. I feel like his heart is in the right place. He wants to be on the right side of history. He wants to make sure he’s doing things to position our game to continue to grow and to be a game that’s loved and appreciated by everyone. Trying to find that harmony, I’m happy we’re treading in the right direction on this issue.”
Since the protests began—-the NFL has taken a number of significant actions:
1—-Roger Goodell has stated unequivocally that the league is listening to and standing by its players—-and has offered an apology for not doing so sooner.
2—-The NFL is donating $250M over 10 years to combat “social injustice as the result of systemic racism.”
3—-The NFL announced that “Juneteenth” (the emancipation of American slaves) will be a league holiday.
Just as Fitz has jumped up to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving, has pitched right in to deliver food to Arizonans at their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic—-Fitz has been eager to be a thoughtful agent of change for the NFL during the Black Lives Matter protests.
While Fitz admits that, even in his talks with his son, Devin, he doesn’t like ‘to sugarcoat anything,” he feels a profound sense of hope, starting with his own team the Arizona Cardinals and with the vigilance he sees today in American and abroad:
“Our group has come together and bonded in ways that I don’t think would have been even possible if we were out on the field. We’ve grown so much over the past few weeks.”
“It’s about just accepting people for who they are. One day I pray that we’ll be able to look at the color of a person’s skin no differently than the shirt that you’re wearing, or the shoe color that you have, or the color of your eyes or your hair. When we get to that point, the world will be a much better place, but it’s going to take some time, it’s going to take some understanding, it’s going to take a lot of education and people opening their hearts to things that they possibly didn’t think was possible in the past. But I think with the way things are going right now, I think it’s a lot more feasible than it was at any other time in history.”
“The more I have educated myself, the more knowledgeable I’ve become. Traveling around the world to 107 countries I’ve met people from every single race, people from every different religion, men and women, homosexual, heterosexual, transgender. I’ve met great people in every single place I’ve gone. I’ve met great people, great poor people. I just see people in a different light because I’ve seen it. I’ve had such positive interactions with people all over the world.”
Fitz had done a lot of listening, note taking and reflecting these days—-but perhaps the most important person he has listened to??? —- is his own son.
It may just have been the kind of listening that would inspire a son to watch his dad every precious chance he gets—-
Even if it means missing the state fair—-
Even if it means watching him on TV this season playing before empty stands—-
For the father-son bond—-that was welded at the son’s behest to walk side by side through the jam-packed, cacophonous Minneapolis streets in the throes of a global pandemic—-in the spirit of healing a nation still ravaged by a scourge centuries old—-is a touchdown all in itself.
No spike from Larry needed.
Just a flip of the ball—-back to his son.