Former major league shortstop Jimmy Rollins was among a handful of professional athletes to sit down and talk with NBCSN about the intersection of race and sports in America. The nation hit a flashpoint on May 25 when George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The event sparked worldwide protests, including all across the U.S.
In the excerpt below, Rollins discusses gun culture as a Black man as well as what it was like to watch the video of Floyd’s death.
Race and Sports in America: Conversations is a one-hour show with two segments that debuts on NBCSN on Monday, July 13 at 8 pm ET. It will be simulcast on Golf Channel, Olympic Channel, and the regional sports networks. Along with Rollins, Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins, James Blake, Steph Curry, Charles Barkley, Ozzie Smith, and Jerome Bettis participated in the discussions.
DAMON HACK: Is it exhausting, Jimmy? How exhausting is it? Chuck talked about it; it’s not new for a lot of people, but it’s new for maybe the majority of Americans. But this is nothing new for the Black community.
JIMMY ROLLINS: Nothing new at all. We’ve seen video after video after video, usually resulting in someone getting shot for doing something they’re asked, because their color is their gun. Being the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood means you’re an automatic threat.
But when you look at the majority of gun owners they aren’t Black men or Black people in general. We shy away from gun stores. We shy away from getting permits and licenses to carry because we’re not comfortable even when we walk in.
So going to a gun store, am I a criminal? That’s the first thing you’re thinking they’re thinking. Well, what do you need the gun for? Who are you planning to go kill?
Yet, when we get pulled over or when we’re just walking down a street or doing just the normal things that any American or any person in this world is doing, we’re already a threat for doing it. And if you’re in a wrong neighborhood, what are you doing here? You have to be up to no good.
So it’s something that isn’t new. George Floyd’s situation, watching a man being suffocated and choked out like that for eight minutes and 46 seconds, that was new. We’ve seen people get shot. It’s, like, okay, he’s going to get shot again.
When I was watching the video, not knowing the full story prior to it, I just pulled it up and it was there, I’m thinking, okay, he got up and he got shot. But as it gets going, this man really is kneeling on his neck with no remorse. It was kind of like, I don’t want to listen to you because I don’t have to. So that part was new.
Here’s a guy actually being choked out with a man on top of him making a decision: I am taking your life because I can ‑‑ over a $20 or a counterfeit $20 bill? You don’t die over that.