Why Patrick Mahomes and Tyrann Mathieu got involved in Black Lives Matter

NFL stars team up for powerful message to the NFL (1:10)

Patrick Mahomes, Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. headline NFL players speaking out for justice in a statement directed at the NFL. (1:10)

When he was contacted to appear in the recent NFL player video to the league office about racial inequality, Tyrann Mathieu didn't hesitate. He wasn't sure what impact the video might have, if any.

He just knew he couldn't sit this out. Not this time.

"I think our social responsibility, I think it goes far beyond the football field," said Mathieu, the Kansas City Chiefs defensive back. "I think we have a true impact in our communities. I think we are able to influence masses of people.

"I don't think the intention of the video was necessarily for us to be heroes. I think ultimately, we saw ourselves as the guys to say something. I know for a lot of us, it's been going on for a while, this problem. Most of us would consider this the second time around. The first time around a lot of us didn't speak up. A lot of us [weren't] vocal, for many reasons. I just think right now, collectively, everybody just wants to see everything pushed forward the right way. I think it's important."

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Super Bowl MVP, had read and heard about other African Americans dying violent deaths at the hands of police, but the George Floyd video, in which a Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of Floyd for more than eight minutes and 46 seconds -- resulting in Floyd's death -- was too much. Mahomes said he couldn't watch from start to finish.

"I think it was just a culmination of seeing all this happening and wanting it to stop, wanting us to find a better way of preventing these instances from happening," Mahomes said. "It's not that one of them was more significant than the other. It was just all of it happening and then me feeling like enough is enough, we've got to do something about this. I'm blessed to have this platform. Why not use it?

"I know I have this platform, I know everyone's not going to agree with it, but I'm going to do my best to make the world a better place, and this is the right moment to do it.”

By appearing in the video, Mathieu and Mahomes became leading faces in the NFL player involvement of the Black Lives Matter movement. But their efforts don't stop there. The two are organizing teammates for social change and among their plans is a campaign to register more people to vote in Kansas City.

Coach Andy Reid appeared proud on a recent Zoom call that the Chiefs have two players who felt compelled to be visible parts of the solution.

"I appreciate Patrick and Tyrann for what they did and standing up and making a statement that allows all of us to be in a better place, where love is first," Reid said.

Mathieu, who supports many charitable causes, seemed a natural to be involved. But he wasn't so much involved during the last round of player protests for social justice in 2016, when he was with the Arizona Cardinals.

He recently tweeted his regret that he didn't do more then to one of the leaders, former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall.

Mathieu, 28, and coming off a Super Bowl championship season, is in a much different place than he was then. He was 24 and still on his way to rehabbing a football career that was disrupted when a few years earlier he was thrown off the team at LSU for violating the school's athletic policy on substance abuse.

"What I had was fragile," Mathieu said. "I went through a lot to get where I was at, and for me it was about continuing to try to turn a certain corner. That was what my focus was on. It was [about] making me a better person, trying to be the best teammate, trying to avoid negative headlines.

"I'm mature enough [now] to understand that a lot of things are beyond me, and that it's OK to go beyond me to help people. It's not about me just fixing myself or building myself up or making sure I'm strong enough to handle my life. It's not just about Tyrann Mathieu the player staying straight, not getting suspended. My priorities are bigger now versus when I was 24 years old."

Mahomes is the same age as Mathieu was in 2016. He's just finding his voice on social issues but unafraid to use it. He's been around professional athletes most of his life -- his father Pat and godfather LaTroy Hawkins were longtime major league pitchers -- and they were among the people he said he relied on when deciding how to confront the current situation.

"The biggest thing that I've done is just lean on people that I respect, people that I believe have done it the right way," Mahomes said. "I've been lucky enough to grow up with a lot of great role models around me ... [I] listen to the advice they give me and then make the best-informed decision as far as what I do and the next step I take to move forward.

"I never had a talk that some people have had with their dads or their parents about being black and the inequalities that you could possibly have. I was blessed to be in a smaller hometown where everybody kind of knew who I was, and I was never put in a situation where I felt like I was not getting the same privileges as someone else. But as I've grown older, I've learned about it through having a black side of my family, and I've seen how they feel about it and I've talked to people that are on that side of the family. And I've also talked to people on my mom's side of the family and I feel like I have a great perspective of how people feel and how the black community feels, how they don't feel they get the same rights or value in some situations."