Saints tight end Benjamin Watson said Thursday he shared his reflections following a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown Jr. as an example of how honest and well-thought out opinions can better shape points of view.
Watson’s 650-word essay, published Tuesday on his Facebook fan page, has garnered 677,455 likes and 381,199 shares as of Thursday afternoon, quickly becoming one of the nation’s most inspirational and complete reactions to the racially-charged saga.
The online reaction surprised Watson, an 11th-year NFL pro now in his second season with the Saints.
“I want to read them all and respond to them all because most of them are very encouraging,” said Watson, 33, whose literary talent allowed him to pen a complex prose during a complex week: the Saints, (4-7) losers of their last three games, are preparing for Sunday’s matchup at Pittsburgh (7-4); Thursday was, of course, Thanksgiving; Benjamin and his wife, Kirsten, were taking care of their four young kids., which meant he completed most of his writing on his smart phone in-between preparing breakfast for the kids, attending a teammate’s non-profit event and sitting in the car, outside a shopping store, watching the kids, while Kirsten grabbed a few items.
When he started writing Monday night, Watson said he did so to allow himself to flush out his opinions, which had yet to be fully formed. He didn’t want to repeat the mistake of so many — to stop after the first layer of emotion.
At the time, he was writing the document for himself and his family; only later did he and his wife decide to share the message on Facebook.
“If you really sit and think about it, I’m angry, yeah, but I’m also hurt,” he said Thursday. “And I’m also offended, and I’m also embarrassed for certain things. And I’m also introspective; I’m hopeful; I’m hopeless. I’m encouraged; I’m sad. I’m all these things.”
Watson’s ability to address the issue without bias, with compassion from all sides of the controversy has led to the overflow of social media responses. This for an athlete who spends most of his time away from football as a father, not a tweeter.
“I heard it’s real impressive,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “He’s just one of those guys that we’re fortunate to have on this roster. He does so many things for us. Not only on the field, but off the field.”
He not only wrote from his perspective — a man, a black man, a father, a Christian, an American — but from the viewpoint of millions of others.
Watson challenged generations of injustice to blacks in America, pop culture which glorifies deadly lifestyles, racial profiling, those that feed into stereotypes by taking advantage of these situations through looting and other criminal activity, challenging whether Americans can say they know whether Wilson could have avoided killing Brown, who was unarmed.
He even challenges his own prejudices.
Watson: “I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.”
He ended by touching on the improvements made in recent decades in American race relations, and termed the issue as “not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem.”
Bunkley's season over
As had been suspected, Saints nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley will miss what’s left of his team’s season because of a leg injury, Payton announced Thursday.
Second-year pro John Jenkins moves into Bunkley’s starting spot.
“I just try to go out there and do the best I can to help the team out,” said Jenkins, who has nine tackles in eight games this season.
Bunkley injured a quadriceps during Monday night’s 34-27 loss at home to Baltimore and is now on year-ending injured reserve. Payton said the roster spot freed up by the move will be occupied by defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil, an undrafted rookie out of Valdosta State who was promoted from the Saints practice squad, as The Advocate reported Wednesday evening.
Also, the Saints added rookie defensive tackle Garrison Smith to the practice squad to fill in the slot opened up by Virgil’s promotion.
Under Bunkley on the Saints depth chart were Jenkins and Brandon Deaderick, an NFL veteran in his first season with New Orleans. Bunkley played in nine of the Saints’ 11 games (all starts), and under him Jenkins has handled slightly more snaps (209) than Deaderick (185).
Bunkley finished with 17 tackles on the season, eight of which were solo. This was his ninth season in the NFL and third in New Orleans.
Injuries of note
Running back Khiry Robinson (forearm) and linebacker Kyle Know (hand) missed Thursday’s practice. Left guard Ben Grubbs (neck), along with middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (ankle), cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee) and center Jonathan Goodwin (toe) were limited.
For the Steelers, safety Troy Polamalu (non-injury related) and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) did not practice, while defensive tackle Steve McClendon (shoulder), cornerback Cortez Allen (thumb) and linebacker Ryan Shazier (ankle) were limited.