CFL legend Geroy Simon wants to do his part for eliciting racial discrimination changes.
After the senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and ensuing peaceful protests around the world, Simon is sharing his own personal experiences.
“It’s really disappointing to see another case of a black man being killed by police in the U.S. Obviously, it’s been happening for a long, long time and I think people are tired, people are angry and a lot of people have lost hope,” Simon said on TSN 1040 radio in Vancouver.
“You’re starting to see the results of it and it’s unfortunate that it had to come to this, but we need to find the solutions.”
The 44-year-old shared his own personal experiences about being racially profiled by law enforcement. The most noteworthy incident happened when Simon was a senior in the NCAA.
“I’ve been the victim of overzealous police officers a few times. One in particular when I was still at the University of Maryland preparing for the NFL draft and meeting with different agents. Coming out of my apartment, I was met with two police officers telling me to get on the ground, pointing a gun at me,” Simon said.
“For me, I didn’t do anything so I kept saying, ‘I’m not getting on the ground because I didn’t do anything’. Fortunately, the agent had the wherewithal to talk me into getting on the ground and putting my keys down because obviously if I didn’t it could have turned down a lot differently and I wouldn’t be talking to you guys today.”
Simon noted he’s had a number of incidents where he feared for his life while being pulled over or other encounters with police. Since Donald Trump was elected as president of the United States, Simon he’s only made the situation worse.
“He’s very outspoken and he shows that he’s openly racist. He’s definitely someone that’s shown that he’s openly racist and it seems like since he’s been in the presidency, people have been more open and more aggressive to showing their true colours,” Simon said.
“It’s just poor leadership, he’s a poor example of someone who should be bringing people together and uniting the country. There are other people that we should look to for examples showing leadership. There has to be a better level of communication and understanding.”
Following 15 seasons in the CFL, Simon finished his career as the league’s all-time leading receiver with 16,352 yards. He won three Grey Cups and was named a CFL all-star six times. That earned Simon superstar status across Canada and it has created a platform he can use to send important messages.
“Most times athletes don’t speak up, a lot of times athletes only want to talk about their athletic careers and the positives that’s going on with them. Even for me, I’m not a person that hugely speaks out on things like this. I just felt it’s kind of my duty to say something and to be a voice, because there are people that’ll listen,” Simon said.
“We have influential voices and I just think it’s important that people with a voice, people with influence need to step up and take leadership. Like I said, there are people who are in leadership who aren’t saying anything, who aren’t doing anything in a positive way, so somebody else has to step up and take that role.”
Simon is unique in the sense he is an American citizen who has made the majority of his earnings in Canada and settled in British Columbia. Although, he states there are issues with racism on both sides of the border.
“We would be naive to think that there isn’t racism here in Canada or even in British Columbia and Vancouver, but it’s not as in your face. I feel safe here, I feel comfortable here and I don’t feel like my kids have to worry about them being in harms way because they’re black,” Simon said.
“Me, as a black man, that’s half the reason why I live in Canada, why I live in British Columbia because I feel safe when I’m out and about and driving a car. If I get pulled over, I don’t fear losing my life because I’m black. That’s half the reason why I stayed here in B.C. because I feel safe, I feel comfort in knowing that if anything happens the cop isn’t automatically going to pull his gun and shoot me or choke me to death.”
Despite the fears, Simon remains proud to be an American citizen. He was born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
“I love my hometown, but it’s one of the most racist places in America. I’m definitely proud to be American, even though there’s a lot of negatives around the U.S. right now I’m still proud to be an American. I’m also proud to know that I live in Canada. I have the best of both worlds, I’m definitely proud to call myself a black American, but I’m also proud to say that I live in a great country in Canada where I feel safe and I feel appreciated,” Simon said.
“People are showing that they’re fed up, people are showing that there needs to be change. It’s not just one city, it’s multiple big cities, it’s multiple small towns and there’s millions of people taking the streets in these places and showing something needs to happen. Until something happens people are going to keep protesting and people are going to keep taking the streets and showing that they’re pissed off.”