LOS ANGELES – On the field, University of Southern California defensive back Chase Williams is easily recognizable sporting No. 7 and playing in the iconic cardinal and gold.
What You Need To Know
- College athletes speaking out against racial injustice
- Thousands have turned out to protest the death of George Floyd
- USC football player Chase Williams participating in BLM protests
- Hope to open up the conversation surrounding race
But off campus, he is defined by a very different color.
“Yes, we’re all athletes, we might be at prestigious schools, but the majority of the time, the police don’t know that," Williams said. "It’s still about the color of your skin and what you go through outside of school.”
Due to the coronavirus, Williams, like thousands of other college athletes, has spent the better part of the last two months at home in the Inland Empire. It was there, scrolling through Twitter, that he first learned of the death of George Floyd.
On May 25, Floyd was killed after now former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest.
“Even though it’s not surprising, it just hits different every single time because you get that same feeling of disappointment in the system itself and what’s going on," Williams said.
Issues of police brutality and racism are nothing new to the college sophomore. They were learned early on in life from his father. As a young black man, he was taught to live and act a certain way.
“Growing up, especially as a black man in America, you’re taught these things," Williams said, "that we need to always prepare ourselves for the worst because the worst always [comes].”
Although playing college football may offer him some privileges, the ability to stay silent isn't one of them.
"Us being athletes we’re pressured to stay away,” Williams said. "But I had to kind of look at myself in the mirror and say, 'If I’m able to do something and participate in something that I feel is a real issue, then I should take that chance.'”
Over the last week, Williams and dozens of other college athletes have taken part in the Black Lives Matter movement, posting on Twitter to share messages advocating for change or to share their personal experiences. He and several of his teammates have also demonstrated alongside protestors in their local communities.
“Being able to see all of my teammates be interactive, and it’s not just my black teammates, it’s my white teammates, my Asian, my Islander teammates, everyone is speaking up about the same issue," Williams said.
He believes that his generation of student athletes carries a unique responsibility to keep the conversation going, not just this week, but all the time.
“This is not something you can talk about once, you have to keep pushing for change,” said Williams.
He continues to catch attention on the field and call for action on the street.