The NFL returned Thursday night. The Jets open their season on Sunday.
But George Fant has more pressing issues on his mind — such as using his voice to express his concerns about social injustice and police brutality in this country.
The new Jets right offensive tackle used his media availability on Friday to let his feelings be known, politely declining to talk about football.
“First and foremost I just want to start this off with keeping my attention on social injustices,” the former Seahawk said over Zoom following practice. “Me being a person from the Kentucky area, something that sticks so close to me is having the chance to be around the family of Breonna Taylor. I just want to keep my focus on Breonna Taylor and social injustices, so let’s just focus on there.”
The 26-year-old Taylor was killed at her home by the Louisville police department on March 13. Charges have yet to be brought up thus far. In the wake of her death, and the deaths of black men such as Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Jacob Blake, more athletes have begun to speak up against systematic racism.
In the NFL opener Thursday night between the Chiefs and Texans, players from the two teams locked arms after the national anthem as an act of unity against racism. A good portion of the crowd of roughly 17,000 voiced their displeasure.
“Anytime you get some guys to show the unity in the NFL and the people not to like it and to try to bring up different things about it that’s not positive, is never good,” said Fant, a 28-year-old native of Bowling Green, Ky., who played college football at Western Kentucky. “Personally, I’m still taking it in, I’m still looking into it. But for me, that’s horrible. … We just want to be treated equally. We just want to be treated the same. Everyone needs to be held accountable. For people to boo, it’s unbelievable.”
The Jets have yet to decide how they will proceed before Sunday’s game against the Bills, coach Adam Gase said Friday. They have talked about it a few times and will meet again Saturday, when a decision will be made about a peaceful protest of some kind. Fant, one of five team captains, may choose to honor Taylor’s memory somehow as well.
“Just to sit on those steps [at a protest] with her family, to feel that hurt and talk to her family a little bit, it’s heartbreaking,” Fant said. “I just want them to know that I’m here for them and can help anytime anyway I can.”
Growing up, he was mostly shielded by racial inequality by his mother. But one day he experienced it, getting stopped for something he described as “scary.” He has three children, and he isn’t sure how to talk to his kids about it yet, as more examples of police brutality against African-American men have come to light in recent months.
“Everyone I feel like has that story of, ‘It could’ve been me.’ Or it could have been my kids. And it’s sickening, man. It’s so scary, man,” Fant said. “That honestly could’ve been me.”