When Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan was growing up, his mother would kiss him on the head every morning before he left the house.
Trevathan was embarrassed by the show of affection at the time—especially when his friends were present—but now he understands what motivated her.
"Back then I hated it, because I didn't know what was going on in the bigger picture of things," Trevathan said Wednesday during a video conference with the media. "I was just focusing on her kissing me in front of my friends, my peers [and thinking], 'Wipe that off, ma, get out of here.'
"But now I see the reason behind it. She feared that I would never come back home to her. That's terrifying, as a person, as a human."
It's just as terrifying that that scenario still exists today for Trevathan and other African-Americans.
"To have that fear in you about being pulled over or being uncomfortable or being yourself, that's not cool to me," Trevathan said. "That's inhumane. We all deserve the right to be comfortable. We all deserve the right to feel like we're protected instead of looked at as bad creatures."
Racial injustice and police brutality are front and center after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer May 25.
Trevathan was deeply affected by Floyd's death, which has resulted in the arrests of four officers, including one who has been charged with second-degree murder.
"It's many different emotions, right?" Trevathan said. "When you see stuff like that, you can't help but feel and you can't help but see what's going on. I have not been blind to those things ever. It happens all the time. I mean, I've been in situations where I didn't even know what to do and I played football and I've gotten out of them. But what if I didn't have that, would I just be another guy, would I just be another black man? I feel like those situations right there we cannot ignore."
To have that fear in you about being pulled over or being uncomfortable or being yourself, that’s not cool to me. That’s inhumane. Danny Trevathan
In 2018, Trevathan was one of five Bears players who formed a social justice committee to use their platform and financial resources to support local nonprofit organizations. Through framework provided by the NFL, the social justice committee divides its mission into three components: education and economic advancement, police and community relations, and criminal justice reform. The players' social justice initiative has invested and raised $957,450 through donations and matching grants from the team, Bears Care and NFL Foundation for 10 different organizations.
After Floyd's death, Trevathan is vowing to become even more active, saying: "I feel like I will be more outspoken, I will be more into politics."
"I feel like I have a voice and I have to use it," Trevathan said. "I have a platform for a reason. We all have a platform for a reason. Football, I've been playing it all of my life. I've been dealing with these situations like this all of my life, although I don't speak on that stuff all of the time. Now I have a platform to speak on it, I will speak on it. I'm not afraid of any of the repercussions or none of that."
The protests sparked by Floyd's death have thrust racial injustice and police brutality into a national spotlight. The next step, according to Trevathan, is effecting and creating change.
"That's where we have to be on board," Trevathan said. "Rent a bus, rent a daggone big old subway if you have to [and] bring as many people as you can to vote and to put something forward, not just talk about this stuff.
"I'm not a person who just likes to talk. If anybody knows me, I don't just talk about stuff. I'm one of those guys, if I say something, I'm going to do it. By the day that Danny leaves this earth, you're going to know Danny did what he said he was going to do. So I feel like I'm interested in getting this resolved.
"I'm going to make sure I do my part, whatever it is. I've got two little ones I've got to grow up and teach what's going on in the world. I don't want to give them a broken world that's confused and [full of] hatred. I don't want them to deal with that. But the reality is, I'm not doing this for me. I'm doing this for them. I'm doing it for people after me. I might not reach my goal, but I will get close to it. I will help and do my part. That's what I'm here for as a man."
Trevathan is urging others to actively support the cause as well.
"I feel like if we're going to talk about it, we have to be about it first of all," he said. "We have to change the whole system. We have to be more educated about this whole thing. This is not just something you win overnight. This is something you have to take steps. You have to vote and put the right people in offices.
"People can't just ignore this stuff. We're all going to be judged one day. I feel like what you do in the presence of fear and the presence of danger and evil is what you will be judged on. I don't know about y'all, but I don't want to have to get to the gate and have to turn back around. I'm trying to have everybody come with me. And it's just like being a leader on the team— you want as many people as you can to come with you."