DETROIT – Detroit Lions' starting running back Reggie Bush made a statement Sunday and it wasn't during the Lions' 34-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It was before the game in warm-ups when Bush wore a t-shirt reading "I Can't Breathe."
Though Bush didn't say a word, the statement of support for Eric Garner, the unarmed NYC man who died after being placed in a choke hold by police as he was being arrested, spoke volumes.
Garner's last words were, "I can't breathe." The whole scene was caught on video. There have been protests all over the country since a grand jury failed to indict the officer who placed the choke hold on Garner.
"I felt it's a terrible situation and it's just unfortunate that this is still happening," Bush said after the game. "It affects everybody. It isn't just me, everybody. We're all in this together."
Bush is not alone. Several other NFL players, including Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi, wore an "I can't breathe" shirt Sunday. St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Davin Joseph wore the message on his cleats.
Some fans and analysts will complain they don't want to see their favorite player - in uniform, no less - voice his personal opinion on game day.
Sports-talk radio callers around the country will complain they use sports to get away from the real world and think these players are wrong for pushing their views on them.
That's total nonsense.
Players have the same rights as other citizens. Players should be able to protest things that affect them, their families, and their community.
It's unreasonable to expect players to play on and act as if nothing is happening in the real world. The game isn't bigger or more important than life.
For athletes, expected to be role models, to turn a blind eye to a perceived injustice is even worse.
Long before and long after they wear an NFL uniform, pro athletes are American citizens.
Sadly, the reason bad things continue to happen is because good people don't speak out against injustice.
To Bush's credit, he made his feelings known on Twitter last month after Ferguson cop Darren Wilson was not indicted by a grand jury after killing an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown.
Clearly, Bush has the courage of his conviction and is committed to his people and community. That's refreshing, to say the least.
A week ago, St. Louis Rams players entered the arena with their hands raised during pregame introductions. The gesture was to signify their hands up and for cops not to shoot.
"I just think there has to be a change," said Rams tight end Jared Cook, who took part in the protest. "There has to be a change that starts with the people that are most influential around the world.
"No matter what happened on that day, no matter how the whole situation went down, there has to be a change."
The NFL didn't fine the players. It was a smart move, especially since the NFL has been involved in political situations before.
The NFL moved the 1993 Super Bowl after Arizona failed to approve the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
"I don't believe playing Super Bowl XXVII in Arizona is in the best interest of the NFL," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said at that time.
It was only after the holiday was approved in 1992 that Arizona started hosting Super Bowls again, starting in 1996.
Just a few days ago, Magic Johnson said this generation's superstars should be more socially active.
"They have to get involved socially," Magic said Friday. "They have to because it affects them, too.
"And it affects their families. They grew up in these situations; they must not forget that."
Bush didn't forget. And it was a good thing.