Jason Bell has commended the National Football League for standing behind its players over social justice issues, and for finally “allowing their voices to be heard.”
In his talk at Leeds Trinity University for Journalism and Media Week, Bell told students that he was proud of the NFL’s progress, particularly since the backlash it faced after Colin Kaepernick took the knee in 2016 in protest against police brutality against African Americans.
The former NFL cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and New York Giants applauded the NFL for making changes such as allowing social justice messages on players’ helmets like ‘End Racism’, ‘Black Lives Matter’, and ‘Say Their Stories’.
“When I played, I was never able to put something on the back of my helmet for something I stood for. That wasn’t an option. Now it is. It’s embraced.”
Recognising the influence of this change, Bell said he is “proud of what Colin has done, and how that has influenced everywhere, every sport.”
The practice of taking the knee before UK football matches became more widespread in 2020.
Bell said: “I do like the influence that Colin Kaepernick has had on all players, by allowing them to use their voice however they want to and with whatever gesture they want to take.”
Bell called for athletes everywhere to acknowledge the platform they have, and to use it by speaking up and pointing people in the direction of finding a solution.
“Let’s have the conversations. Let’s figure this out.”
He went on to talk about growth of the game in the UK, and the rise of NFL popularity amongst UK fans.
“I could not imagine doing this anywhere else. And I never thought I would say that.
“I cannot imagine representing NFL anywhere but here. I feel like being a part of the growth of the game here is such a unique experience.”
Bell said he understood the importance of immersing himself in UK culture, as for the UK to embrace NFL culture he must, in return, embrace this country: “I’m not in and out, I’m not part-time, I am here.”
Having made the transition from the field to in front of the camera, Bell highlighted the importance of journalism to make a change.
“Journalism is so important and so special, especially in the climate we live in.
“Go out there, make sure you get the right narratives out there, and you can change the world,” he told his audience.
Jason Bell’s media career has also encompassed appearing on Strictly Come Dancing 2020, where he unfortunately was the second celebrity to leave the show.
He ended his talk reminiscing on his time on Strictly: “Whenever I think something is hard, or I have a lot going on, I look at that salsa and think, I can do it!”