LOS ANGELES - “Remember, I’m born in 1974, so my Black life has mattered since the day I was born.”
As protests continue to rage across the country over calls for racial justice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley spoke with FOX 11’s Elex Michaelson to give his take on some of the more hot-button racial issues of the day, from Black Lives Matter and calls to defund the police to Black fatherhood in general.
“It’s hard to support an organization or a movement that is, one, so young in its existence, two, so polarizing in that same existence, and three, by some of their mission statements, in terms of the principles that they’re pursuing, I just disagree with,” Wiley said of Black Lives Matter as an organization.
“But I don’t think that that should be something that antagonizes anyone that does support Black Lives Matter,” he continued.
Wiley’s stance on BLM follows comments he made on his FOX Sports 1 show “Speak For Yourself” following the NBA’s announcement that the slogan “Black Lives Matter” would be painted on the courts.
At the time, Wiley stressed the importance of family structure in his own life, “not only the one I grew up in, but the one I am trying to create right now. Being a father and a husband, that’s my mission in life right now.”
He contrasted that personal view, one influenced by a father who faced overt racism in the 1940s and 50s South, with portions of BLM’s mission statement, which called to “dismantle the patriarchal practice” and “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.”
“My nuclear family really gave me guidance, and saved me from some of those adverse moments that presented themselves all around me,” Wiley told Michaelson. “So I don’t need an organization to continue that building of character, and to continue to grow men and women of that character, no matter what their race or ethnicity is.”
Wiley said he does hope the energy of BLM can help put pressure on the ills of world, but that his involvement will take place in a different capacity, one focused more on home and family: “The change in the world that I want to see is going to be the change I’m going to put on myself in terms of looking in the mirror and growing those in my circle of influence.”
Beyond the conversation of the nuclear family, Michaelson asked Wiley, who grew up in Compton, California, what he made of another key viewpoint of many BLM supporters: defunding the police.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Wiley said, adding there needs to be more precision regarding what those who want to defund the police are actually calling for “My police interactions have been overwhelmingly positive, as they are, by the numbers, for everyone in this country, despite obviously some negative occurrences and unfortunate situations that have occurred.”
“It’s just amazing that we’re going to a lot of extreme positions just to try and fix what’s wrong with our world, and what’s wrong with our world has to be kept in perspective compared to other countries, and other civilizations, and other societies,” Wiley continued.
As the times become more hyper-charged, the views more extreme, Wiley again stressed that many of the solutions, in his mind, could be found in the home, with a strong nuclear family.
“Going beyond the data, that obviously supports a nuclear family, and especially if you want to narrow that focus to the Black community, I think the erosion of the nuclear family is in part supporting and contributing to the ills of our community,” Wiley said.
That data includes statistics cited by then-Senator Obama in a 2008 Father’s Day address that Black children in single-parent households are five times more likely to commit crimes, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
According to Walter E. Williams, an economist at George Mason University, poverty within Black families is nearly five times more likely in single-parent households than two-parent ones - 37% as opposed to 8%.
“We want to fix all these grander issues that have a simpler cure,” Wiley said, “which is to make sure your commitment is to you, and to your family, and to a significant other, to a wife, to raise that family, and that will be the compass necessary to navigate you through that world.”
In a wide-ranging interview on The Issue Is, Wiley also discussed the recent efforts by athletes across the NBA, NHL, and other leagues to take a stand for racial justice, as well as his predictions for the NBA Finals and World Series - Los Angeles, prepare to celebrate.
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