O'HARA: Ragnow listening and learning from Lions teammates

Frank Ragnow has felt raw emotion from seeing videos of George Floyd being killed by a Minneapolis policeman, and he felt the emotions of his African American Detroit Lions teammates speaking in team meetings this week about racism they've endured because of their skin color.

It has been a painful but fruitful learning experience for Ragnow, the starting center and young leader going into his third season with the Lions.

He has gotten the message, and he intends to spread the word on racism from what he has heard and felt.

"The team meetings this week have been very unique," Ragnow said in a Zoom meeting with members of the Detroit media Friday afternoon.

"Especially from the perspective of myself, a kid who grew up in suburban-slash-country privilege. I say I was a privileged kid. I have a very great upbringing.

"I never had to worry about things that some of my black brothers in that locker room had to worry about."

Veteran safety Duron Harmon, signed in March as a free agent, spoke earlier Friday to the media about his experiences of being harassed by police because he is black.

It was obvious from the way he measured his words while speaking forcefully that hearing those words from Harmon and others made an impact on Ragnow.

"I'm learning about many things as I go along," he said. "In my daily life, I don't have to think about things that maybe a black person, a person of color, would have to double-think about things that I take for granted.

"I guess I knew that there was different stuff in this country. I guess I just didn't realize the day-to-day, second-to-second issues that my teammates, my friends, my brothers have all had to go through.

"That's been the most eye opening and heart breaking thing to me."

Ragnow was speaking from his family home in Victoria, Minnesota, about a 35-minute drive to Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed on May 25. Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, until Floyd expired.

Chauvin was eventually charged with second-degree murder. Three other Minneapolis police officers were charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder.

Being so close to the scene of Floyd's death magnified Ragnow's reaction to what he saw on the video.

"I mean, what do you say?" Ragnow said after a pause and a deep sigh. "It's disgusting, inhumane – anger. I mean, just confusion. How is that even a reality today in 2020? There are so many good things in this world.

"Being so close to Minneapolis ... I guess as a privileged person it's made it more real and opened my eyes even more.

"It's a shame it took it being this close to me for me to open my eyes, but I'm happy my eyes are open now."

Lions players and coaches have not been at the team's Allen Park headquarters for the offseason program. Meetings have been conducted by Zoom, with most players at their offseason homes, as was the case with Ragnow and Harmon for their Friday media sessions.

Ragnow expects there to be a different, and more personal, dynamic among players when they have face-to-face discussions. He doesn't want to lose the momentum from what they have started

"It needs to continue," Ragnow said. "That's a thousand percent. It can't stop here. In person it'll be good. I can't believe how many raw emotions I felt through a web cam this week, but in person I imagine it's going to be even more.

"I'm looking forward to those discussions. I think it'll be good. I think us as white people need to get comfortable being uncomfortable so we can figure out this issue. I'm sure there's going to be some uncomfortable moments – some learning, some understanding.

"In the end, it's got to be all for the positive and all for change. I look forward to being able to hug some guys. Obviously it'll be corona style, so we'll see how that'll be.

"I look forward to it."

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