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Transcripts: Kenny Stills Press Conference (8-24-2020)

What was your reaction to the latest police brutality incident in Kenosha, Wis. with Jacob Blake in the context of everything that has happened this year?

"Yeah, I think it further proves the point that we need to make a change with what's going on with our law enforcement. We have another unarmed black man being shot seven times in front of his children. I think there's other ways to deescalate these situations and just another horrible example of what our law enforcement is doing to our people."

You were arrested in Louisville, Ky. outside of the Attorney General's house earlier in the offseason. What happened and what were your takeaways from that experience?

"We went to Louisville to bring more attention to Breonna Taylor's case. We've tried to do everything we can to get in touch with Daniel Cameron to sit down and have a conversation with him and figure out what's going on with this case. It's been over 155, almost 160 days, I think, now. There's been no justice served in this case. Yeah, we went there to bring more attention to this case and we're hoping that something can happen soon. We need the officers to be arrested, fired and prosecuted for what they did to Breonna Taylor."

What were your main concerns when it came to whether you would opt out or play this season?

"Obviously, you think about the safety of yourself, the safety of your family. You think about what's going on in our country right now. I feel like sports really are a distraction from the movement. I feel like there's other things that are way more important than playing football or playing sports at the moment. A lot of things went into the decision to opt out or play. I felt like, after speaking with people that I was close to and some of my teammates, that I can be more of a benefit to this team and to the movement on the inside, trying to be a leader, working with my teammates, working with the staff here, working with the league and knowing who our audience is in the NFL and trying to have as big of an impact and an influence on them as I can."

Did you see the comments by Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell that he made in his conversation with Emmanuel Acho?

"I saw the headline saying that he wished that he would've listened to Colin (Kaepernick) earlier, yes."

Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell stated that he had conversations with you in the past, but not with Colin Kaepernick. What were your conversations like with him and what do you think about his response now?

"Honestly, I don't really have too many thoughts about it. He can say whatever he wants to say now, but in a sense if we would've taken a more stern stance and he would've listened to us at the beginning of this, there would've been so many lives that could've been saved. There's a lot of progress that we could've made within our law enforcement, within our police. It's a nice gesture, I guess, to say he wishes he would've done something different, but look at the NFL. We're supposed to be kind of the leaders in our country and I feel like we figure out a way to always be – how do I want to say this? We're reactive instead of proactive when it comes to a lot of the issues in our country and within the league, as well. I hope that we can do a better job moving forward of listening to our players, understanding our issues and doing something about it."

Due to COVID-19, being tested every day and playing football – will those things limit your activism during the season?

"I don't think so. I just try to wear my mask and follow the protocols as much as possible. There was a big event in Kentucky over the weekend for Breonna Taylor, BreonnaCon, that I didn't get the chance to go to. I've thought about going to OB (Bill O'Brien) and asking him, 'hey, is it OK if I get out of here to go be involved in the movement? So, it's not something that I'm really worried about. It's more just trying to find a balance between what we've got going here as a team and what's going on within the movement. Understanding that we have our first game in 16 days, I want to perform for my teammates and for the fans here and represent myself in the best way possible on the field."

What are your thoughts about the mainstreaming of the movement, and do you think it is helping or does it feel like empty gestures?

"Honestly, I'm not sure. Obviously it's great to have more people listening, more people paying attention, but there's got to be action behind that. There's people in high places all across the league that can be reaching out to other people in high places to make legislative change, to make real change. So, yes, it's great that we're opening up and having a conversation and listening to each other, but what are we going to do about it? Taking a knee, raising a fist and making t-shirts, putting people's names on our helmets or what have you – that's not going to bring somebody back to life. That's not going to stop somebody from getting shot. I'm really focused on the things that I can do outside of just taking a knee, like I always have been. So, yeah, it's great that we've got more people involved in the movement and more people paying attention, but it seems like, in a way, a lot of the leagues are just figuring out ways to market it and then make money off of it and then move forward."

What did you think when you heard Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien would take a knee with you and your teammates during the national anthem this season?

"I think it's a nice gesture by Coach. But just like I said before, it's about talking to Cal (McNair) and talking to the other owners all across the league to see what they can do to really impact some type of change, whether that's regarding our law enforcement and police or whether that's regarding the conversation around reparations and what that looks like. There's real things that we can be doing, tangible things that we can be doing here in Texas, in Houston. So, yeah, I appreciate the gesture by Coach, but we need to be able to follow up with some action that is going impact our communities."

You met earlier this year with Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo. Is there anything developing that you are trying to accomplish with him?

"I think it's continuing to really understand how the police unions work and function throughout our country. They seem to have a lot of the power here in the United States when it comes to handling some of these issues. It seems like the attorney general in Kentucky, his issue – the reason why they don't want to fire officers when they make a mistake is coming from some of the negativity or whatever that can come from the police unions. Figuring out how the lobbying works, how the police unions work and trying to reimagine what those systems look like and make those types of changes here in Houston and throughout the country."

When you see what happened in Wisconsin, I'm sure it is the same for you as it is for me, it's more than just another Black person has been unnecessarily shot. It's horrific, it's devastating, it's maddening, but it's also frightening. Can you talk about what you feel beyond doing what is right, that it's is also something that can cause concern for you?

"I'll just say I saw that video this morning around 5 a.m. and I didn't know if I was going to come to work today. I had been upset, crying, all the way up until practice. Then something happened at practice that had nothing to do with that and I'm on the side ready to explode. It had nothing to do with what was happening but just because I'm an emotional person and I feel that. So, yeah, there's a sense of fear of like yeah, what happens to me if I get pulled over. What happens to my people that look like me, my family, my friends, and this almost sense of defeat. But over the past couple of months I've been trying to figure out ways to kind of battle through that and try to be the light, or try and be a light within my family and my community, this locker room, and not be defeated and not give up. Yeah, there's a sense of fear but there's also this sense of anger. I'm really just toeing the line on that edge, trying not to be destructive, trying to be constructive in this environment as much as possible."

You talked about moving beyond the gestures. Can you talk about the things you would like to see happening?

"I've been studying a bunch on reparations, trying to get in contact with Professor (William A.) 'Sandy' Darity (Jr.) and Professor Darrick Hamilton. They've been working on a race-neutral type of reparations called Baby Bonds that I'm pretty interested in. But also, too, I think it just starts with that conversation around our country, being able to admit our wrongdoing. In any type of situation like this, in order to move forward you have to address what was done first. So, people kind of have a lot of different outlooks on reparations but I think it just starts with the conversation around our country, fully acknowledging and admitting and apologizing for what has happened, and then figuring out what's next when it comes to economic equality and money and funds. So, I've been really focused on that, and then the conversation around defunding the police, which has been the political term, but it's really not a political term. It's taking the money that we've been investing into our police that is a bad investment. I think as a capitalist society we understand investments and so if we're putting money into the police and they're not doing their job, we've got to figure out a way to imagine other types of ways for us to protect our communities and serve our communities. Really just looking in and diving deeper into those topics and figuring out ways that I can get involved, educate myself and educate others."

Could you tell us what your shirt says?

"It says 'Breonna Taylor's killers are still police officers.' One of the officers was fired. Three of them are still working there in Louisville, Kentucky. It's a conversation I think can be had at a different time but when we talk about defunding the police or rearranging those funds, the conversation will also lead to this topic of mass incarceration and something that needs to be done about that. So, right now, I would say we need to arrest the police officers that killed Breonna Taylor, but I would hope that at some point in time we can reimagine what justice looks like in our country because the system of mass incarceration is not working for us. It also disproportionately affects the Black community. So, right now we need arrest the police officers that killed Breonna Taylor, but I think in the future we'll have to start to think about our system of mass incarceration and reimagining justice as well."

Have you been contacted by LeBron James and that group in order to help with voter suppression issues down in Florida? Is there anything you plan on doing here that does along with voter suppression in the state of Texas?

"I haven't been contacted by LeBron's group. I'm actually working with an organization in Nashville that I've been close with, trying to help pay off some of the fines there so that people will be able to vote in Nashville. I haven't been contacted or reached out to anyone here in Houston. I'm definitely interested in working with the people in Houston around the topic of voter suppression and trying to do my best to encourage other people to get registered and make sure they're out there voting."

While peacefully protesting outside Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's home, they arrested you and 86 others and initially charged you all with felonies. What are your thoughts on the overcharging in this?

"The felony charge, in my mind, was to try and make a statement to us but also was a way for them to keep us in jail for longer. We ended up being in handcuffs and within the system for 17 hours. For a minor offense, you would be in and out, but I think they were trying to send a message to us for us being on his property. I think that's all it was."

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