Why now and why this issue of domestic violence -- the hottest-button topic in the NFL if not our society today?
I asked Russell Wilson that this afternoon, one day after the Seahawks' Super Bowl-winning quarterback wrote in his new role as senior editor of Derek Jeter's new athletes' website The Players' Tribune. Why is he, normally conservative as a public speaker, taking a stand off when many other big-name athletes and prominent people in America stay quiet and just let the checks cash?
"Some things you don’t have to shy away from. You know what’s right, you know what’s wrong and I don’t’ think you need to shy away from it," Wilson said. "I don’t need to go into what I think people did right or wrong, I don’t think that’s my part. But the whole idea of the Why Not You foundation and the whole idea of Pass the Peace is, 'What can we do to move forward? What can we do now and what can we do in the future? And that’s why the Why Not You Foundation wants to support and help."
Wilson said he was inspired to step up last week while traveling to California during the Seahawks' bye and listening to the music of a favorite artist of his, Michael Jackson, and the song "Man in the Mirror." He then discussed his ideas with coach Pete Carroll, among others, before his story appeared on Jeter's new The Players' Tribune website on Tuesday.
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I also asked Wilson if he'd have as effective a platform from which to do this if he wasn't a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
"If I hadn't won a Super Bowl I don't know if it would have quite as huge of an effect, but hopefully," he said. "I don't think the effect comes through me, though. That's the great thing about it. I think the effect comes through other people and I'm just a small little part of it. I just had the idea. I just wanted to pass it on. So for me hopefully it becomes like wildfire where everybody wants to Pass the peace and throw up their two fingers and hopefully change the generation and change the world. Because it's not just an NFL issue, it's not just a sports issue. This is across the United States.
"I called them (national domestic-violence experts and prevention advocates) and they were telling me they have had to turn down over 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 people a day from different locations just because of not enough shelters, not enough counseling. So hopefully this money that we raise is good enough to build more shelters, good enough to bring more counselors in and help more people.''
Wilson said Jeter, the now-retired New York Yankees shortstop, approached him months ago to be the first contributor to his new athletes' site. Jeter then met with Wilson on the hush-hush project in early June on the Yankees' lone trip into Seattle for a series with the Mariners.
Wilson also talked about how big a bully he was until he said he was "saved" at age 14 by a new faith in Jesus.
"I was just so competitive. I thought I owned the playground. I thought I owned the classroom. I thought I was bigger than who I was," Wilson said of being a boy in Richmond, Va. "I thought I would never get in trouble for anything. I thought that was the way to go. I thought that was being a man, as a young kid, for whatever reason. And so, for me, once I transitioned -- my faith really grew when I was 14 years old -- so once I kind of got that in my life I knew what to focus my life on.
"And I'm not perfect by any means now. But at the same time, I know that God's grace and what he gives me and how he's blessed me is something that's truly special. And I try to share that with other people."
What did Wilson do to other kids?
"Oh, man. Knock people's teeth out on a regular basis, probably," he said. "Used to bang their heads up against the wall. Used to throw them against the wall. I used to cuss all the time. I used to be a bad kid, man. But I grew from that. Back then it was one of those things that I was kind of immature. Now I transitioned into this maturation -- big time."
In a sports world where some top athletes reap the riches of our society yet give very little back to it, it's admirable and impressive that Wilson at the age of 25 is thrusting himself as the face of not only the Seahawks but now athletes against domestic violence. And entertainers, too -- Wilson said he is also teaming up with Justin Timberlake in the QB's self-titled Why Not You initiative.
You can read in the first link above how Wilson is proposing we all help raise awareness and funds, for causes such as building more shelters to protect battered spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends and children in our country.
Wilson said his goal is to challenge two new people each morning to give to this Why Not You campaign against domestic violence. Besides Jeter and Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon has been asked.
Here is all Wilson had to say today. Only a small portion of it was about Monday night's game at Washington.
Given the seriousness of the issue Wilson is championing, that's how it should have been:
"I opened up my foundation last Tuesday. It was originally going to be called the Russell Wilson Foundation. I was thinking about it, and I realized—one of the scriptures I’ve kind of been relying on this year is John 3:30, it says “he must increase, but I must decrease”—and I realized I didn’t want my foundation to be about me; it’s about everybody else. My dad used to always ask me the question, ‘why not you? Why not you be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback? Why not you play professional baseball? Why not you get your education?’ So that question motivated me. It’s something that was kind of a kick start to my discipline and my work ethic and everything.
"I’ve been thinking about all the kids I see and all the people I get to me, and one things I thought about was, I should call it the Why Not You Foundation. The Why Not You Foundation, the whole goal is to empower people, to empower people for change and to make a difference in the world. So for me, I thought it was the perfect idea. Then I was flying down to California during the bye week, and I was listening to the song ‘Man in the Mirror,’ and I was thinking with all the things going on in the world and all the things with domestic violence, I knew that the idea of Pass the Peace would be a great idea. I was thinking, ‘OK, what can I do with it?’ and I had been thinking about it for a while, the whole domestic violence situation going on, and I knew that I could hopefully make a difference being the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks and being able to talk to different people and hopefully be encouraging as well. So the whole idea of Pass the Peace came along, I was thinking about, ‘OK, I play quarterback, how ‘bout I pass the ball to somebody,’ then I thought about peace and what that means, and I came up with Pass the Peace. It’s been a great initiative so far. I think within 2 ½ hours there were over 1.7 million people that saw the video of me challenging Derek Jeter and Justin Timberlake. I’ve talked to both of them, Derek’s taken his picture of passing the peace, and I think Justin’s in the process of doing that—he’s in Australia—so that’s a cool thing. I’m challenging two people every morning, it’s something different. I’m really excited about it. All the funds go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They’re struggling to find the funds to keep all the men and women and kids in the shelters. I was able to call the hotline and talk to the CEO, and it was just a sad situation just to hear the situations that are going on. Hopefully people can team up and pass the peace. The hashtag is WNYPassthepeace, why not you pass the peace. It’s been a very, very good thing so far."
What kind of response to the article:
"I’m going to be doing some writing. I probably won’t be able to write as good as you guys, but I’ll be working on it (wink, wink). The Players’ Tribune thing is a great thing. I’m tagging up with Derek Jeter obviously, we’re tag teaming there and then legendary we’ve been doing some things. It’s a very cool situation. But like I said my focus is on football that’s the ultimate focus is playing great football and trying to win games. I do want to be an entrepreneur, I want to be able to do different things, I’m not just about football. I think I have the power to help others and encourage others. But that’s part of it too as well. I’m a very reserved person for the most part but I do think that being able to step out into that and write articles and to do some videos and do some fun things with Players Tribune which is going to be a great thing for athletes is going to be something truly special."
What made this appropriate time to speak?
"I did the research and that’s kind of what allowed me to step up and I don’t think I’m going to be the one that’s going to raise a whole bunch of money but hopefully I can start it. That’s my goal. Hopefully I can pass it on, “Pass The Peace” to one or two people and they can pass it on to their friends and hopefully we can start a movement. At the end of the day to start a movement it has to be somebody to stand up and root for it and stand on an idea and I think it’s something special we all can do. And It takes $2, it takes $5, it takes $10, whatever it is that you can do. Ultimately what it is, it’s my promise to do my part. I think you have to start with the individual, that’s kind of the idea with the man in the mirror song I was listening to _ which I love Michael Jackson as you guys know _ but to think about that song the “Man in the Mirror” and have to do my part. That’s why I’m passing the peace to one or two individuals."
Why this topic?
"I think some things you don’t have to shy away from. You know what’s right, you know what’s wrong and I don’t’ think you need to shy away from it. I don’t need to go into what I think people did right or wrong, I don’t think that’s my part, but the whole idea of the Why Not You foundation and the whole idea of Pass the Peace is what can we do to move forward? What can we do now and what can we do in the future? And that’s why the Why Not You Foundation wants to support and help."
WAS THE ARTICLE DIFFICULT TO WRITE? "Yeah, it was difficult to write. To tell you guys I was a bad kid growing up, to kind of go in depth about that, you know, I used to have anger issues. I'd get mad all the time. But, for me, I've been graced with great family, with great people who have encouraged me instead of discouraged me. And that's what I want to do with the Why Not You Foundation and the Pass the Peace initiative. And the whole idea of The Players' Tribune, to write that first article, it was kind of, OK, I'm going to step forward and do something. To tag up with Derek Jeter on that and be the first one to tag up with him on The Players' Tribune is truly special -- and an honor for me. I love Derek Jeter, one of the best baseball players to ever play the game but also one of the most well-respected players, too, as well, who gets it right. That's why everyone calls him 'The Captain.' He does it the best."
DID JETER APPROACH YOU? "Yeah, he approached me about it, several months ago. I couldn't tell anybody about it. It was one of those things we had talked about it, we'd been texting and calling about it that it was a really good idea to kind of come out and do something fun and exciting."
WHAT WAS THE SOURCE OF YOUR CHILDHOOD ANGER? "What was the source of my anger? That's a depth question. I think, for me, I was just so competitive. I thought I owned the playground. I thought I owned the classroom. I thought I was bigger than who I was. I thought I would never get in trouble for anything. I thought that was the way to go. I thought that was being a man, as a young kid, for whatever reason. And so, for me, once I transitioned -- my faith really grew when I was 14 years old, so once I kind of got that in my life I knew what to focus my life on. And I'm not perfect by any means now. But at the same time, I know that God's grace and what he gives me and how he's blessed me is something that's truly special. And I try to share that with other people."
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE WORSE THINGS YOU DID TO OTHER KIDS? "Oh, man. Knock people's teeth out on a regular basis, probably. Used to bang their heads up against the wall. Used to throw them against the wall. I used to cuss all the time. I used to be a bad kid, man. But I grew from that. Back then it was one of those things that I was kind of immature. Now I transitioned into this maturation -- big time."
Did kids ever beat him up, too:
"As you guys look at me I'm only 5-11 and about 212. But back then I was pretty big, I was pretty strong. And I also had an older brother. So I used to play varsity sports in the eighth grade playing varsity baseball, so I was around bigger people all the time. Used to play pickup basketball in the sixth grade playing with the seniors, so for me it was one of those things where I thought I was really bigger and older than I was so when I played with people my age it was something that I wasn't going to let them go.''
On if he ever said sorry to any of the kids he pummeled:
"I haven't seen any of them. They've gone missing for whatever reason. Not that way, not that way. But I honestly haven't seen any of them lately.''
On what changed when he was 14:
"My faith. I got saved and I kind of changed my life bigtime. I used to always go to church to see the cute girls and now I go to church to work on my heart, so that was one of the things that helped me change a lot.''
On domestic violence being viewed as a women's issue and why he nominated/challenged two other men -- Jeter and Timberlake -- to donate to the cause:
"I don't want to go into great detail why I picked the two people and not others. It was just one of those things that I knew Derek, I was going to pick Drek, I had talked to him for a while, and it was like, 'okay am I going to pick a man or a woman. I'm going to pick some women throughout this process, but it was just I thought Justin Timberlake was a guy that I've just watched over the years. He's a great entertainer, a guy that's well respected a guy that does a lot of different things a lot of people know him for what he is and how he does it, so I thought he'd be a great person to challenge. And he's young and he's alive in the sense of who he is so I thought he was a great person to do it and obviously Derek Jeter because he's so well respected. But there are some other women I am going to challenge but I'm not going to tell you who yet. But they are very influential women that I think will be cool to pass the peace.''
On if he'd have as effective a platform to do this if he wasn't a Super Bowl-winning quarterback:
"If I hadn't won a Super Bowl I don't know if it would have quite as huge of an effect, but hopefully. I don't think the effect comes through me, though. That's the great thing about it. I think the effect comes through other people and I'm just a small little part of it. I just had the idea. I just wanted to pass it on. So for me hopefully it becomes like wildfire where everybody wants to Pass the peace and throw up their two fingers and hopefully change the generation and change the world. Because it's not just an NFL issue, it's not just a sports issue. This is across the United States. I called them and they were telling me they have had to turn down over 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 people a day from different locations just because of not enough shelters, not enough counseling. So hopefully this money that we raise is good enough to build more shelters, good enough to bring more counselors in and help more people.''
On when he met Derek Jeter:
"I met him about a year ago and then met him again when came out here we were supposed to have a meeting so we met for a whole when he came out here for his last series against the Mariners so we talked about a whole bunch of stuff and then we've been communicating ever since.''
On if people will be able to buy his sweatshirt he is wearing in the photo above?
"That's what we are trying to do. I thought about this whole Pas the Peace thing about a week ago so I've seen quietly going through this whole process of building it up and getting it organized and talking to the right people about it, so yes you will be able to hopefully get the shirts on the Whynotyoufoundation.com web page so I'll let you know when that is.''
On what would you say to those who commit domestic violence:
"In my faith I believe in forgiveness, I believe that people can change. I believe that everybody is not perfect and people make wrong decisions all the time. But the great thing about the Whynotyoufoundation and the Passthepeace initiative is the promise that no matter how good I have been or how bad I have been or what I have done, boy girl man or women, the whole thought process for me is the Man in the Mirror --- how can I change? How can I help others? How can I make a difference, one person at a time. So if we focus on the individual changing the world one person at a time we have a chance. If I just try to change all of domestic violenace and say "stop'' all at once that's not going to happen, right? But if we can help raise funds one individual at a time, donate five dollars, 10 dollars, 100 dollars whatever it is and the hoepfully passthepeace from two people hopefully that will continue to exponentially grow and become a snowball effect and help other people down the road.''