“Tonight, I thanked many people who supported my career and many of you are my closest friends,” Bailey said. “Some of you are also considered experts of the game as much as I am. Out of the people I mentioned tonight, most of you are black men. My brothers. Some of you are athletes and some of you are non-athletes, but we are all black men first. It’s something we have more expertise in than any aspect of our lives. I’m a firm believer that if you want to create change, you better start with your friends and your family. So I’m starting here today.
“The first thing people see when they look at me is not a Pro Football Hall of Famer or a husband or a father. They view me first as a black man. So, on behalf of all the black men that I mentioned tonight, and many more out there who’ve had the same experiences that I’ve had in my lifetime, we say this to all of our white friends: When we tell you about our fears, please listen. When we tell you we’re afraid for our kids, please listen. When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen. And please don’t get caught up in how the message is delivered. Yes, most of us are athletes, but we are black men first. Understand this. Things that make us great on the field, like our size and our aggression, are the same things that can get us killed off the field.
“I believe if we start listening, there’s no telling the progress we can make. All of us are dads, sons, brothers, your friends. We all understand that if we can’t get our friends to listen, then no one will. And to my black brothers, if you do not have anything positive to say about our social challenges, please keep your mouth shut.”