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.
"In the midst of that, what I understood was, and [what] my dad always taught me was, to not lash back out in that moment because then it becomes something that's hard to deal with," Wilson said. "So I said, 'Excuse me, sir, but I don't appreciate you speaking to me that way.' He just kind of walked off. But in that little glimpse, even though it didn't turn into something, what if it did? That's the sad part about this, what we're talking about."
Wilson and wife Ciara are parents to a 3-year-old daughter, Sienna, and they are currently expecting a son. He's also stepfather to her 6-year-son, Future. The NFL star said becoming a father himself made him think back on the lessons his father shared, and compelled him to call for more action regarding police brutality and systemic racism.
"The reality is that me as a black person, people are getting murdered on the street, people are getting shot down, and the understanding that it's not like that for every other race," he noted. "I think about my stepson, I think about my daughter, I think about our new baby boy on the way, and it's staggering to watch these things happen right in front of our faces, so I have a heavy heart right now."
Wilson is one of many athletes who have pledged their support for Black Lives Matter protestors and have used their voices to call for change. He shared a post to social media on Monday, detailing his "pain, frustration, anger and sadness" at Floyd's death and the lack of "true leadership" in America.
"I ask, what do you really want? Do you want your kids to go to school without fear? Do you want your grandchildren to have a dream?" he wrote on Instagram earlier this week. "I want my kids and your kids to have a dream they can earn -- earn with hard work, love and compassion for others. However, I hope and pray their dreams and opportunities aren't blocked by the fears and pain caused by racism."
Following days of demonstrations across the country, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison increased the murder charge against former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin -- the man seen with his knee on Floyd's neck in the widely shared video -- to second-degree murder.
Ellison also brought charges of aiding and abetting murder against the three other former police officers, who were fired for their involvement in Floyd's death, according to court records obtained by CBS Minnesota.
See more on the ongoing protests in the video below.