Harmon talks about his experiences with racism & social injustice

The Detroit Lions hit the pause button on football this week.

In their virtual team meetings, they've had meaningful conversations about the issues facing the African American community and the country as a whole in the wake of George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis, and the protests across the country that have since followed.

Lions safety Duron Harmon said in a Zoom call with reporters Friday those conversations have been thoughtful and productive.

"I think they've been extremely productive," he said. "We kind of took a break from football because how could you worry about football with obviously the country in a crisis like this. It's so much bigger than football right now.

"Obviously, with our team predominantly being African American, I think Matty P (head coach Matt Patricia) did a great job of just giving everyone an opportunity to kind of voice their opinions, voice their frustrations and for our white brothers to kind of really understand what the African American community and African American men truly goes through living in this country."

Harmon expressed his love for the country that's given him the opportunity to play in the NFL, but also shared personal experiences of racism at the hands of police officers, the conversations he's had about racism with his own children, and his thoughts on what the NFL can continue to do to usher in real change.

"What matters right now is trying to find ways to change and being in the moment right now," he said. "Trying to make sure we get justice for George Floyd for Ahmaud (Arbery) for Breonna Taylor, that's where the focus has to be right now. That's what we're focusing on obviously as an organization.

"How can we help the community out? How can we make sure we do our job to make sure police officers are held accountable, district attorneys are held accountable to this social inequality that we're dealing with as a society.

"The narrative has to stay the same and focus on what is the problem? The problem is police brutality, social injustice and just racism, and if we can just focus there, and not try to put it on anything else, that's when the change will really occur.

"And it's not just going to be a drastic change. It's going to be a group of people coming together, doing it the right way, then they go out in the community create change and touch other people's lives."

Harmon is supportive of the protests. He's spoken out on social media on the issue, and has been a leader in the virtual meetings with teammates and coaches.

"I think the older I get, obviously the more kids I get (Harmon and his wife are expecting their fourth child), you start to realize what life is truly about," he said. "Coming into the league, I just wanted to be the best football player I could be. I think now, going into year eight, turning 30 sooner than later, you realize there's so much more to life. So much more to being a part of this world than just being a football player.

"To be around guys the last seven years like Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty the last two years, guys I really look up to, I just notice how much they care about other things besides football and how much impact they have on the world. When you get older, you realize that's what it's about."

To that point, Harmon, along with some of his then Patriot teammates, took an interest in leveling the educational playing field for children in underfunded and under-resourced schools, and for criminal justice reform in Massachusetts.

Harmon said being able to go in front of legislators and voice his opinion on that initiative helped him realize how big of a platform he has being in the NFL. He hopes to help younger players realize that for themselves.

He's also pushing the NFL as a league to continue to fight for social equality and use their massive platform to help institute necessary change.

"As African American players we have to make the sure the NFL always fights this issue. Having our backs," Harmon said. "A lot of African Americans, we're not going away from this. We're going to make sure that it gets changed and the only way we can do that is for our white brothers and our white sisters ... we need them with us.

"We're crying for help and I feel like we're at a point where help is on the way. Help is definitely on the way and the NFL is trying to make sure they supply that help as well, so we can create real change in the world."

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