Even after becoming a Super Bowl champion, Russell Wilson faced racism in his everyday life. The Seattle Seahawks QB spoke virtually with reporters on Wednesday, opening up about the protests around the country following the death of George Floyd, blacklisted former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick and his own experiences with racism growing up in Richmond, Virginia, and long after.
"My dad was a lawyer. Growing up -- my mom was an ER nurse -- so I was around a lot of socioeconomic classes, and races. I experienced a lot," Wilson said. "I do recall this -- and I talked about it in our team meeting the other day, on Monday. I talked about how my dad [was] telling me all the time, every time I got out at the gas station, ‘Don’t put your hands in your pockets.’ And that was a real reality."
"To be honest with you, I understood it, but I was kind of like...after a while you are like, ‘Oh, OK.’ But as you grow older, when you turn 13, 14, 15, you really understand why. And you understand fully, especially now, turning 31 and having two kids with a third one on the way, you really understand the significance of what that means."
However, the racist behavior didn't stop for Wilson even after he became a household name and face, leading the Seahawks to a crushing Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos in 2014. The NFL star recalled being in line at a California restaurant shortly after the win, and hearing a white man behind him say, "That's not for you."
"And I said, 'Excuse me?' I thought he was joking at first," Wilson recounted. "My back was kind of turned. I had just come off a Super Bowl and everything else, so if somebody is talking to me that way, you think about [a different] circumstance and how people talk to you."
"In that moment, I really went back to being young and not putting my hands in my pocket and that experience. That was a heavy moment for me right there. I was like, 'Man, this is really still real, and I'm on the West Coast. This is really real right now.' That really pained my heart."
Thinking back to those childhood moments, Wilson said he remembered what his father used to tell him about deescalating confrontations.