At first, Jalyn Holmes couldn’t get through the video of the policeman’s knee on George Floyd’s neck.
For the former Ohio State defensive end, it was just too painful. Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, where Holmes plays for the Minnesota Vikings.
“When I saw the video for the first time, I couldn't watch it,” Holmes said on Monday. “I had to skim through it.”
Holmes isn’t in Minneapolis now. The coronavirus pandemic has forced him to try to find a way to train outside of Minnesota. Holmes recently bought a home in central Ohio.
But distance from Minnesota hasn’t minimized the pain of seeing Floyd killed so graphically.
“You didn’t know how to feel,” he said. “I was angry. I was sad. I wanted to break something in my house.”
Holmes always has had a strong social conscience. At Ohio State in 2017, he was at the forefront of a group of players instrumental in bringing together policemen and inner-city youth for a day of fellowship at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. He is planning an event for youth in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia, in a couple of weeks.
During the NFL season Holmes lives 15 minutes outside Minneapolis, but he knows enough about the city that he wasn’t shocked by what happened to Floyd.
“There’s already a disconnect with the police,” he said. “There’s inner-city issues they have, but Minnesota does a great job of kind of masking it. I feel like that video revealed a lot of truths.
“The response that people had to it — the protests and everything that came with it — was not surprising because people have been suffering with that stuff for a long time. And as a culture, we have been dealing with that for a long time.
“As people, we're tired. We want answers, and people want to be heard, rightfully so.”
Holmes is also heartened by the marches and demonstrations, with people of all races joining blacks in demanding change. He believes revolution starts inside each person, and he believes the Floyd killing has forced those who minimized racism to reassess. That may be uncomfortable, he said, but also necessary.
Floyd’s death was an extreme example, but Holmes said race shadows so much. When he first moved into his home in a Columbus suburb, he felt uncomfortable walking around his neighborhood unless he was with his 1-year-old son.
“When I’m with my son, people see me as a dad,” Holmes said. “But when I’m not with him, people may see me as a threat because of my stature or my skin color.”
That discomfort has faded as he has gotten to know his neighbors.
“I live in a great neighborhood,” he said. “I’ve had some neighbors talk to me about some issues and ask good questions about how they can help. So I’m in a good situation. But at first, (I’m like) ‘why do I have to go through that?’ ”
Holmes said that growing up in Norfolk, he had an instinctive fear of the police. If he was playing with other kids and a police car approached, they would stop until it passed as practically a reflective clench.
Holmes wants the world to change so he doesn’t have to have the same conversations with his son that he received as a boy about fearing the police.
“You want to hope you won’t have to,” he said. “But I’ll always want to teach my son history of where he comes from. His mom is half-black. His granddad is white. So he will see both sides of it.
“I feel like regardless of how the country will be when he’s old enough to have that conversation, I will have to have it just to give him the history of why things were the way they were and how we got to where we are now. But if we have to have that talk because it’s still a problem, I would hate to have it.”