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BC Lions star speaks out about racism
VANCOUVER -- He’s one of the best in the CFL-- BC Lions wide receiver Bryan Burnham is known for his highlight-reel catches. The seven-year veteran of the league now wants the world to know that he is stepping up to help make a change.
"Right now, football is on the back burner and I’m trying to figure out what I could to help and to help heal this nation," Burnham told CTV News.
Burnham is currently living with his wife in Tulsa, Okla. because the CFL season is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has now shifted his attention from football to the growing concern of racial discrimination in America.
“It’s unbelievable that it’s 2020 and we are here with the racial divide in the United States,” Burnham said. "This is a time when the world and America needs leadership to bring people together and we haven’t had that.”
“It's been difficult. A lot of sleepless nights," said Burnham. The death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police force and the tensions on the streets as the protests continue to grow has Burnham concerned.
“I think what hurts the most is that George Floyd isn’t the first and he’s not going to be the last and there are so many people that have suffered at the hands of police brutality and racism and it hurts that it took this much to get to the point that we are at today with all the protest that are going on," Burnham told CTV News.
The 30-year-old grew up in Moorestown, N.J.
“My mother is white and my father is black. My dad’s from Florida. Fifty-three years ago in Florida it would have been illegal for him to marry my mom and his children would have been illegitimate just because of the colour of my dad’s skin and the colour of my mom’s skin. It’s crazy to think we have come a long way but that was not that long ago," he said.
His childhood was somewhat sheltered from the racial divide in the nation, but he still felt the pain of being picked on because of the colour of his skin.
"Every single day I got on the bus in middle school, the bus driver was an older white man. He used to call me 'bucket lips' every single day. To me, it just went over my head,” said Burnham.
Today, the all-star wide receiver still feels racial discrimination on the streets of Tulsa.
“Unfortunately, in Oklahoma, I feel that fear, there are times when I don’t want to leave the house because I’m afraid of what’s going to happen…and that’s not to say everyone in Oklahoma is a racist. There are so many great people in Tulsa that I’ve grown to love, but there are some people who have hate in their heart."
With professional athletes speaking out in support of Black Lives Matter, Burnham has been impressed with his fellow teammates taking action and now he’s using social media to get the word out.
"A lot of other CFL players are doing it, professional leagues all around the world, it’s been great to see, more importantly the white athletes who have been speaking up and who have been defending their black teammates and their teammates of colour, that's been amazing. That is what we need. We need every race to come together and speak up on this."
Burnham’s uncle is a police officer in Philadelphia. He has a lot of respect and support for the work he is is doing, but states there needs to be change.
"Police forces need to be reformed, but there are good cops out there who want to do right I just appreciate them so much," he said.
Playing football and living in Vancouver, Burnham has grown to appreciate life in Canada.
"When I’m in Vancouver, walking around you see so many different people. You see white people, Indian people you see Asian people, all these people in one city. I’m not worried about anything, I’m not watching my back," he said.
An athlete making great plays on the field is now a spokesperson for positive change.