New Orleans Saints Tackle Terron Armstead & Linebacker Demario Davis
Video Call with New Orleans Media on #SayHerName campaign
Friday, September 11, 2020
Opening Statement: Demario Davis:
"Well, thank you guys. As you saw with the release of our video, we have a campaign long plan for the season. With all this going on in our country around social justice, we want to meet as a group of leaders on our team and figure out a way we could all be on the same page around a uniting issue, in a way to uplift voices of disenfranchised. So what we chose as a group, was to focus on black women. We wanted to focus on black women because, as we see in Breonna Taylor's case, when there's so much emphasis around Ahmad Arbery, and there was (George) Floyd, she was often being left out of that conversation. Her killers, they haven't been convicted. And so, we want to look at a deeper dive into so many stories like hers, where those voices aren't being heard, and those cases aren't being talked about. And in doing that, we realized there was a whole world of issues where, African American women were being left out. And so, not only will we raise awareness around the victims of police brutality, which is a much larger conversation, but specifically focusing on black women, but also, you know, other issues around black women, throughout the season. We are talking about black women in education, black women in healthcare. We're talking about sexism, racism around black women, black women in sports media, and a whole gamut of other topics that black women have to face on a regular basis. And we believe that uplifting the voices of black women, we'll uplift the voices of all women, and we uplift our country as a whole. So that's the stance that we're taking as a team and organization. And we're looking forward to it this year."
If you guys have something planned for Sunday, I don't want you to spoil a surprise or anything like that. But we saw like, last night with the Chiefs-Texans, they did like a unity circle. Do you guys have anything in the works, maybe even with Tampa Bay or anything like that, that you are planning to do pregame that maybe people could expect?
Demario Davis: "So we will have a series of different things planned as you'll see in the video. We have a specific gameday video presentation that will play inside the stadium. You know, without fans, we'll be rolling it out in different ways, out on TV. A bigger vision of our plan when things clear up is to work more hand in hand with the families and support them and have them here with us on game day. And so, with COVID and all this going on around that, we're still having to work through protocols and the plans. But we have a season long, kind of, campaign that will play itself out. Specifically, on gameday, with a specific rollout and some more surprises that people haven't seen yet. And also we'll have a weekly conversation and dialogue around these topics around black women. We're going to have players sitting down with experts in these fields and black women talking about these issues."
"And Andrew (Doak), as you were talking about the show of unity between the Texans and the Chiefs, what they did last night. At this point, we have not discussed anything, especially not with the opposing team, as of yet. We have got a few more team meetings left to see if we are going to do anything on that front. But as far as the campaign, as Demario was talking about, we have that aligned to be sent out every week."
Do you think some of these uncomfortable conversations, if you want to call them that, I mean for lack of a better term? Do you think having some of those conversations head on with people of every different background and race within your own locker room has led to a cohesiveness that's been real beneficial, that maybe you didn't know what was expected, it could lead to that type of great progress, just from personal experience?
Demario Davis: "Yeah, I think exactly what you said about a couple of conversations. The conversations are not as uncomfortable anymore, they have been had on a regular basis. Every time we turn on the TV, you see conversations about race. At one time race was the elephant in the (locker) room, and it's no longer the case. And it's unfortunate that it took a lot of these prominent cases to rise, to happen at a time when we were all inside during COVID. And everybody was forced to look at the situation for what it was and call it what it is. And you have so many more people speaking out from all different backgrounds and being a part of the conversation there. Ultimately, it will take all of us to create real solutions and that's what we want. We want it to go from conversations to solutions to impact, so that's the plan."
I know the Miami Dolphins announced sort of a dissatisfaction that there's empty gestures by the league. I'm curious if you feel like you're being given the platform that you want by the league, and by the Saints in particular? And if this is a way you guys decided to make it a meaningful way to take advantage of the platform that you're given this year?
Demario Davis: "Yeah, I can't speak to the league, as a whole but, all I can speak for is our organization the Saints. They have been nothing but fully supportive. We met offsite, as group leaders, as captains and talked about a plan that we wanted to do. From the head coach to the GM to Mrs. Benson, all they've done is pretty much say, "What do you guys want to do? We want to support it." So they've been 100% supportive. This is a player led campaign. The organization has fully backed us, trying to find ways to amplify it on the platform, find ways and resources that we can connect in the community. And that's what that's really what you need to change, you need everybody, you need corporate, you need players, the community, you need everybody that has resources to come together and try to create change. And it's definitely a blessing to be a part of an organization such as this, that supports the players and their aspiration and vision, and really supports the community and wants change. And I think that we can, that's what ultimately we want to be, is we want to be an example or a light as an organization to others, that they can just take it and replicate it."
Have you spoken with Breonna Taylor's family about any of your initiatives. And then specific to Demario, I know that you went around the country when protests are still happening, but earlier in protests, this year. With those conversations you had with local leaders, did any of those conversations help you in creating or coming together with your teammates for this initiative for the season?
Demario Davis: "So, to answer the first question, we are working with AAPM, African American policy forum, I think, is the proper term for them. They are responsible for creating, hashtag #SayHerName, so we aligned with them. They were already, best guess, one of the biggest pioneers to bringing these cases to life. And so, they'll have us in connection with all these families. They'll be helping us pick, to which families we'll be working with, such as Breonna Taylor. Connect us with those families, so that we have a good streamline of communication. And they've been great. Also, we've been working with the WNBA who, they've been a big part of this movement and especially with amplifying the voice of black women. And so, working with them has been another good resource for us. I think in regards to me traveling around the country, you have a great group of guys who've been involved in the community. You've got guys like Terron (Armstead) who's doing his own foundation in his community. You've got Malcolm (Jenkins) of course, who's been an activist for social justice, a leader in the social justice brand. Drew (Brees) who has always been great in the community and has grown even more in the black community, as of recently. And so, you've got a bunch of guys, Thomas Morstead, Craig (Robertson), Cam Jordan, Alvin Kamara. These are all the leaders that came together. So we have got a group of guys that have worked so hard in the community. And then, something hits that we all care about, all of those minds are coming together. So, this was a collective effort. This was a group of minds that thought about different ways we could come together and do something as a team. And it is been great working with this leadership group, not just on the football field, but off the field. And so, I'm just excited for what's to come with this team."
And this could be for either one of you all, but obviously the message you're getting out is an important one, what do you say to the people who still don't really get it and you know, don't want to see this in football? What would be your message to them?
Terron Armstead: "Well, Demario said something a couple weeks ago, he expressed it, shared it on social media and also said it in a team meeting. He said; if you need more evidence and you need more, to see more, to hear more, then at this point, you're part of the problem. It's all out there, everything's out that you need to be saying to take a step in the right direction of change. So, it's at a point now, it's a disservice (to) our families, our communities, to stick to sports. We have a platform, we have voices, an opportunity to be expressive. We need to call for change and not just ask for change. We are out here, doing it too, boots on the ground, trying to try to make some actual, noticeable change. So, at this point, there's not much time left to waste and that is why we chose to be super direct with our campaign, specifically focusing on black women. There's a ton of social issues and as we try to go through the social issues and chop them off, we started with black women and that's why we're super direct with it."
I guess just was it difficult to hone in on that because there are so many different issues that you guys could have chosen to focus on?
Terron Armstead: "Yeah, and it was a series of conversations. A lot of minds. Everyone putting their input, everyone is voicing opinions and ultimately, it just seemed like it's prominent that black women can be overlooked and left out, not spoken for. So, we definitely had to take a step to change that and bring that to the forefront."
Is there a financial aspect to it? Maybe funding scholarships? I know Drew (Brees), Gayle (Benson) and many of you have donated a lot of money in terms of that. So, I was wondering if that was a part of it as well.
Demario Davis: "Yeah, we have a series of plans as far as funding goes, we'll be doing a mass grant on our team that the players will be able to be a part of, the organization will be able to be a part of, the NFL has a matching grant, but we wanted to find a way to get the community involved. Everybody in New Orleans and a part of the New Orleans family, Who Dat Nation and anybody that sees what we're doing and wants to be a part of it, we want them to understand that they can be a part of it and support, but we want the support to go to organizations like AAPM, that have boots on the ground and are experts in that areas that have been doing the work. We also want the support to be able to go to these families. There is no way to really bring justice to these families because justice would be bringing their loved ones back. We can't do that so the best way to do that is, whether that's financially, justice in the court room for their families, things of that nature and so, those are some of the plans that we have in place. You will hear more once we (progress) throughout the season."
You guys kind of already touched on this a little bit, but just the commitment of time and keeping it an ongoing conversation and just making sure it doesn't fade away through the season. Why was it important to do it that way? Instead of just like maybe putting some money on something?
Armstead: "Yes, it was important to us because though we play a game we love, we still have a tremendous platform. To whom much is given, much is required. There is so much going on in the world. We cannot be out just playing football with the world burning around us. We need to (have) boots on the ground. And when you think about something as prominent as black women, you think about the power of black women in the African American Community. Black men, raised by strong black mothers, having strong black sisters. Some of the most powerful people in the black community are the black women, grandmothers, mothers, whatnot, like they're literally the backbone of the community. And so for them to be left out in the conversation, it's an extra responsibility on us as black men to bring their voices and their lives to the forefront. But also as men in a society, we have a responsibility to our women. We should constantly be uplifting them, protecting them and putting them out front. It's just the right thing to do and with our team owner (Gayle Benson), being one of the only (female) owners in the NFL, that's even more powerful and even more reason to. We're the right team with the right situation with the right group, why not us? I think in this time, we don't want to be an organization or people who are asking other people to do something we're not willing to do. And so I think the best way to bring change is to be the change and that's what we're trying to do."
I could be totally overthinking this right now, but is the Lombardi like symbolic of anything with your message in maybe like a unifying message of multiple things, or is that just kind of random that it was there?
"You can take whatever you want to take away (laughter)."
Along with the message that you're wanting to continue to help spread right now, like, seeing football on the screen last night given all that you guys have kind of gone through to get to this point and then also have the opportunity to be able to continue to spread your message with different things on the back of helmets and cleats and messages like you're spreading right now, what did you kind of feel emotionally last night seeing football and having that as the vehicle, like, actually get to this point where the season was happening last night?
Terron Armstead: "It was definitely great to see the game back. As a fan, I'm a huge football fan, (I) always (have) been. So, just as a fan of the game it was great to see to see the sport comeback, see the live action. So many great players out of the last night with the Chiefs defending their Super Bowl run. Great to see that the sport come back. We can't for once just, like I said, at this time, (with) the current state of the country and the current state of the world, we can't just play football. We've got to continue to let the messages be known, let the voices we heard. But it was great, especially with COVID and everything and so much uncertainty coming into the year, (we didn't know if) we were going to play this year. So to see that game take place and see a team 1-0 now, it was a great feeling."
Demario Davis: "It's good to have football back. It was amazing. I think we've got everybody excited that the game is back and rolling along and we're ready to continue to roll along. But what was even more powerful to me and why I was encouraged (was) here you have the future leaders of our game in Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, both the highest paid players in our game. Both are from the younger generation, here they are leading their team and sending a message to the world, one of unity, one of solidarity and when I see that it gives me hope. It gives me hope that the future is in good hands. Those are the leaders of our game. You look at them and even though they're young, those are the future leaders. The game is going to be left in their hands and they're doing right with their responses. You have got Miami, sending a strong message. I'm sure you'll see a lot of teams doing stuff, but it's just like Terron said, we can't just stick to sports with so much going on in our world. With a lot of us being from this community, so many of us know what the right thing to do is. If you know right, you do right. I think that's all everybody's trying to do right now."
How does it feel to finally have your platforms be so to open to allow you to deliver these messages after several years of having that struggle?
Davis: "Yeah, at one time a lot of these conversations were controversial. Not that long ago, the issues that are on the surface now that everybody's talking about in this community was trained to talk about a very controversial issue at one time. That's all Colin (Kaepernick) was trying to do was bring awareness to these issues and these issues are still going on. You have to be truthful, right? Not everybody wants to see these issues go away. Not everybody sees these black and brown people being killed (and they don't see) the problem. In some regards, you have to understand that our country has gotten comfortable watching black people die and that's the reality. Even in the face of leaders in our game standing out and standing unity and solidarity, it was in the midst of boos. We have to be honest about the conversation. I think players are standing up and standing strong. We're not saying we're going to change the world. We're not saying that. All we're saying is we're not going anywhere. We're not going to remain silent. We're not going to go away. We're not going to stop bringing these issues to the forefront. And I think that's the resiliency that you see in everybody being that's a part of the fight. And I want everybody from every community to be a part of that. Don't go away. Don't stop speaking up. Don't stop telling your family members the truth. Don't stop demanding more of your friends and your peers. Everybody has to be a part of the solution and until that happens, we won't have changed, but I'm encouraged that so many people are coming to the front and not going away and not remaining silent, because it's definitely for some change in our country."