Benjamin Watson never expected to gain national attention for sharing his thoughts on race relations from a Christian perspective two years ago, but now the Saints' tight end is calling on other athletes to speak out about social issues.
During the Indiana Fellowship of Christian Athletes Night of Hope event in Fort Wayne on May 2, the 35-year-old NFL star told those in attendance that they need to be speaking up in the name of their faith.
"As believers (in God), we have an answer the world does not. One of the biggest divides we have is the difference in experiences," Watson said, according to the Journal Gazette. "We have to address our loyalties. Our loyalty is not to our grandparents, the traditions, our volleyball team, our friends; as believers, our loyalty is to Scripture."
The NFL player reflected on his decision to share his feelings on Facebook about a Missouri grand jury ruling that a white police officer would not be indicted the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, to which the Obama Department of Justice agreed.
"I remember them deciding not to indict the officer and feeling so much emotion. What I do sometimes is write," Watson said at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes event. "I (wrote) about being frustrated and sad, about being hopeful because I see the progress made in this country on race."
The football player believes the root of many of the conflicts surrounding race relations in the country center around heart issues. Instead of focusing on earthly differences, he spoke about the importance of looking at the union people have as children of God.
"Sometimes we say, 'Oh, they're black, I don't really like them,' or 'All the white people are out to get me; I can't stand them.' Our earthly distinctions, God created," he said. "The reason we have power to live free from sin is his blood. His blood is what unites us."
Last year Watson spoke at a Convocation for Christian higher education institution Liberty University in Virginia. There, he spoke about racism in America but also managed to talk about finding his faith in Jesus.
Watson shared a story about being sidelined with a torn ligament while his team, the New England Patriots at that time, played in the Super Bowl in 2004. The experience helped him learn to lean on his faith instead of his job title.
"What I do is play football. … What I do doesn't change who I am and who God sees me as," Watson said at the convocation, according to The Liberty Champion. "… We are God's children. We are Christians first, and then what we do flows from that."
"Make sure you know your identity is in Christ, so that when you get laid off from your job, or when you get a raise from your job, or when things don't go right, you're not up and down, up and down," Watson said. "… If (your identity is) not grounded (in Christ), you're going to be all over the place. You're gonna be like a leaf blown by the wind."