Terance Mathis to Brian Urlacher, one Lobo All-American to another, a Black American to a White American: show yourself.
Tell us what you really meant. Show us who you really are.
On Tuesday, Mathis spoke by phone with the Albuquerque Journal to talk about his involvement with NFL Votes, an NFL initiative launched in hopes of encouraging Americans to vote in the upcoming election. His thoughts on the matter will be the subject of a story in an upcoming edition.
But when the conversation turned to Urlacher, and the furor created by the former UNM and Chicago Bears star’s Aug. 27 Instagram post, Mathis had a great deal to say.
“I’ve been keeping up with the situation and how it’s being handled, and how it’s being perceived,” said Mathis, an All-America wide receiver at UNM (1985-87, 1989) who went on to a 13-year career in the NFL.
In his Instagram “story” (a feature in which the post goes away after 24 hours), Urlacher seemed to mock NBA players’ brief playoff boycott in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“Brett Favre played (an NFL Monday Night game) the day his dad died, threw 4 TDs in the first half, and was a legend for playing in the face of adversity,” Urlacher wrote. “NBA players boycott the playoffs because a dude (Blake) reaching for a knife, wanted on a felony sexual warrant, was shot by police.”
Reaction, given that Blake was shot seven times in the back – following deaths at the hands of police of African Americans George Floyd in Minneapolis, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta and Breonna Taylor in Louisville – was swift. Current and former players from both of Urlacher’s former teams, the New Mexico Lobos and the Chicago Bears, condemned his remarks.
Mathis said he and Urlacher have met and played against each other – their NFL careers overlapped for three years – but said the two have never had a real conversation.
He wants to hear more, and Urlacher has been largely silent since his initial Instagram post.
“I’ve respected him from afar,” Mathis said. “… I don’t want to judge, because I don’t want to be judged. Only God can judge me and only God can judge us.
“But at some point, with all the things that you represent as a man and as a former NFL, college and high school player, do you owe it to those institutions (to make) some kind of statement?
“The world we live in says yes.”
College and professional football locker rooms are diverse places, Mathis said, adding he has difficulty understanding why Urlacher seemed unable to empathize with so many of his former teammates.
“You (meaning Urlacher) gained success and made a whole lot of money off the backs of African American men,” Mathis said. “… You spent a number of years in NFL locker rooms, on airplanes, on buses, on the field with individuals that you called your brothers. You represent a university that has a diverse community and a football program that is diverse, with a number of African-American athletes in that program.
“I don’t understand the insensitive nature or the lack of empathy for the guys that you’ve played with, played against and that you represent, the Chicago Bears organization, your high school in New Mexico and your university there in Albuquerque.”
Danny Gonzales, UNM’s first-year football coach, was a Lobo teammate of Urlacher’s in 1997-98 and was a UNM graduate assistant during Urlacher’s final two seasons in the program. The two are good friends.
“I know Brian; he’s not a racist,” Gonzales said amid the controversy.
Nor is Mathis calling Urlacher a racist. But it is not enough, he said, for Gonzales to defend him.
“You cannot speak for a man, because you don’t know his true intentions or what he thought,” he said. “Only he can speak for himself … because you don’t know what he meant. Only he knows what he meant.
“… At the end of the day, I want to know how you feel about me, because now I need to know how to deal with you.”