Dre Kirkpatrick is a proud Alabama native. After eight seasons with the Bengals, he also considers Cincinnati his home.
On Friday night, his home was under attack.
“I was very scared, because I’ve never seen anything like that,” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick and his girlfriend, Lexy Hight, own Hutch Baby, a baby outfitter on Vine Street in Over-The-Rhine. As they got ready for bed, Hight received a call saying the store was a target for looters. Kirkpatrick gathered a few friends and drove to the store to stand guard.
“This was terrifying," he said. "You didn’t know people’s motives. People were throwing rocks, they were dropping grenades, shooting rounds off with their guns. It was very high tense."
He says not long after he exited his car, he confronted a man with intentions of burning down a neighboring business.
“I had to engage, because you’re going to light my things on fire,” Kirkpatrick said. “I just watched people help an old lady upstairs. I’m like, 'People are living here, elderly people are living here.' These kids aren’t thinking. They just (want) to burn things. No motives behind it. 'Let’s just get stuff free, let’s just get stuff started.'”
The night didn’t end until 8 a.m. Hutch Baby wasn’t damaged but is boarded up in the meantime.
Kirkpatrick knows plenty of work lies ahead, and he said he sympathizes with the protesters angry about the Minneapolis death of George Floyd and other recent instances of police brutality against unarmed black victims.
“I want it to stop, but I understand it, I get it," he said. "We have to have justice, man. Growing up I’ve seen two or three of my colleagues get killed by the police, not having a gun. One of them had a bottle of liquor and they gunned him down.”
The former Bengals cornerback won’t backpedal from the issues in front of him.
“I want to tell (the protesters) to be careful," he said. "I’m not going to tell them how to conduct themselves. I’m going to tell them to stop breaking things in the places they live. It’s stupid. It’s pointless … Quit tearing down our neighborhoods. Quit tearing down minority and black neighborhoods. They already killing us. Now we can’t eat because we’re destroying the things we need.
“But I can’t tell them how to express their anger. I can’t tell them to go home. I’m not going to tell them to go home. Because the (****) needs to stop. I will say: 'Relax. Come up with a better strategy and let’s figure this out together.'”
Rookie Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow expressed his own frustration on Twitter.
The black community needs our help. They have been unheard for far too long. Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.
— Joey Burrow (@Joe_Burrow10) May 29, 2020
Burrow was one of many white QBs, including Andy Dalton, who shared his thoughts about George Floyd’s death on social media recently. Kirkpatrick says the silence of white decision-makers speaks volumes.
“All the white quarterbacks speaking up, no general managers speaking up, no owners speaking, the one thing different there — they’re all white, most of them,” Kirkpatrick said. “The one difference is the QB has played with black people their whole life. Sat in locker room their whole life. Those QBs built lifetime relationships with black men their whole life, those QBs are throwing the ball to black men their whole life, so they understand black culture, black music, they understand us. We love to have fun. Even during rioting, black people gonna dance, we gonna express ourselves. Those QBs understand us as a race a lot more than people think and give them credit for it. “
The conversation about police brutality and the NFL can’t go without mentioning Colin Kaepernick — a conversation even Kirkpatrick admits he, like several other NFL players, is late in addressing.
“They did him wrong. They oughta see what he was fighting for. He never made it a racist thing,” Kirkpatrick said. “He was only talking about what was going on now. The people that tried to destroy his character and his name, probably realizing what’s going and trying to fight for it now.”
Now emboldened, Kirkpatrick says he will continue to speak up about the injustices of the world, including the ones on the doorstep of his home.