Back in 2016, WWE superstar Randy Orton was rather outspoken in his public criticism of Colin Kaepernick and other athletes taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.
“Americans are dying. Pigment of skin doesn’t matter. American people matter,” Orton wrote in response to the protests.
Fast forward to May 29, 2020, and suddenly Orton seemed to have done a complete reversal when he tweeted, “All lives DO matter, but the point I was trying to make is that I finally realized that until #BlackLivesMatters, they can’t. Get it?”
Orton, a 13-time world champion – fourth on the all time list behind just Ric Flair, Triple H, and John Cena – followed that tweet up with another similar message and retweeted his fellow WWE superstar Shelton Benjamin.
— Randy Orton (@RandyOrton) May 31, 2020
Don’t make victims of the innocent, don’t claim to value life while destroying a life. Don’t become the thing you hate.
— Shelton J. Benjamin (@Sheltyb803) June 2, 2020
So how does one go from being an All Lives Matter guy to being a more enlightened and very strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement?
Orton revealed the process he went through to CBS Sports this week.
“When Kaepernick was kneeling, I looked at it as disrespecting the American flag and that he was disrespecting the servicemen and women who fight for our freedom and our free speech and come home in a coffin when they give the ultimate sacrifice,” Orton explained. “That coffin draped in an American flag. I think I went on Booker T’s radio show and even said those things and I believed them.
“It took me a little time, but what I had to do was realize, Kaepernick, he wasn’t shitting on the flag. He wasn’t disrespecting the people that have given their lives for our freedom. He was taking a stand against police brutality. As a white guy, I don’t see it. But then I started listening to my black brothers and sisters, especially the ones I’ve known for years and some for more than a decade. I was hearing first-hand accounts of interactions with cops that took advantage of the situation and the power they had because they maybe felt a certain way about the color of someone’s skin. That’s when the lightbulb went off.”
“I’m embarrassed to say it, but it took me a little while but I get it. What I said on Twitter, I stand behind. If anyone doesn’t agree with me, I think they need to do more digging. Go look at Big E’s Twitter from a week ago, go look at Xavier Woods’ Twitter, go look at things Kofi said, that Mark Henry said, that Shelton said, that R-Truth said. If you read what they’re saying and try to put yourself in their shoes for even just a minute, you’re going to see right now that it’s not fair. All lives do matter, but like I said on Twitter, until black lives matter, all lives can’t matter. My only regret is that it took me a little bit and some soul searching to see that.”
“The more that social media has allowed us to see these horrific videos — and it wasn’t just George Floyd,” Orton continued. “I’ve seen so many after I did a little digging,” Orton said. “You realize it is tough to be a black person in this country, and we’ve got a ways to go before all lives truly matter. I think what we have to do is make sure black lives matter.
“And I think white people, like me, especially with a platform, saying that? Sitting on your laurels and not saying anything? I don’t think that’s helping anything. You need to get out there and get in this conversation. You need to insert yourself. That is what I was trying to do.”
I think perhaps the legend Rocky Balboa may have said it best when speaking about cultural differences one time.
“I seen a lot of people hate me and I didn’t know what to feel about that so I guess I didn’t like you much neither. During this fight, I’ve seen a lot of changing, the way you felt about me, and in the way I felt about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that’s better than 20 million. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”