CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap wants to use his platform as a professional football player to help the Black community fight systematic racism. For him, that starts with getting others in the organization on board to “create a ripple effect.”
The 11th-year veteran spoke to the media Monday for the first time since training camp started and spent more than 16 minutes discussing his own experience with unequal treatment and how the Bengals and the NFL have responded to recent events nationwide bringing to light racial injustice.
Dunlap said some Bengals players felt the organization could have done more to address the issue, and he hopes to schedule a meeting with owner Mike Brown to share his thoughts. Cincinnati was among the last teams in the league to do so, pledging $250,000 to community initiatives through an article written by Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson. Four days later, Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn released a statement through the team’s social media.
“It was definitely something we definitely took note of,” Dunlap said. “Katie, she addressed it on behalf of the organization. They had their reasoning for it. The players, some of them received it very well. Some of us still feel like we still could speak something. She acknowledged it and came out and made her statement on behalf of the organization or typed up whatever it was that came out. But there’s still things that need to happen.”
Dunlap began the interview answering questions about his health, after he sat out Monday for “precautionary” reasons, and how he stayed in shape during the offseason amid COVID-19 shutdowns. The conversation shifted, though, when he mentioned an incident this summer during which he and some other Black players were kicked out of a park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, while a group of white NFL players were permitted to finish their workout.
Dunlap said it was “frustrating,” but the situation didn’t raise any eyebrows because “it’s been going on.”
“For that to happen in a time when it was being highlighted or shown to still happen, subconsciously, I don’t know if he (the park ranger or security officer) thought about it like that, but for that to still happen was appalling to us,” Dunlap said. “It was very frustrating and something that almost made me act out of character. There just needs to be a change. We need the higher-ups to speak on change.”
The Bengals have created a “Positive Impact Committee” to put together a plan of how to spark change, which Dunlap commended, but indicated perhaps not everyone in the organization is on the same page.
Dunlap would like to see the Bengals, the Reds and FC Cincinnati – the “biggest” voices in the community – speak out collectively and acknowledge they want change.
“We still need everyone to get on board,” Dunlap said, later clarifying he wants more from the higher-ups. “Without everyone on board, it’s just a plan, a dream, or a temporary fix,” he said. “It’s not going to be a long-term solution as what’s needed. We had the conversation, so they hear us. But what are you going to do? How are you going to affect your community?”
Asked if he had requested a meeting with Brown to discuss his thoughts, Dunlap said he intends to when he is back to practicing and better representing the player they’ve invested in all these years.
Dunlap wouldn’t go into detail about what he wants to say to Brown or what he wants out of the conversation, because he wants to walk in “with a fair, level playing field” to be able to voice his opinion.
“I don’t want them to check the box,” Dunlap said. “I want them to do something they are passionate about. That way, they’re physically and emotionally invested in it as we all are. I just wanted to have that conversation with him personally, one-on-one. And however that conversation goes once we leave the room, I leave that alone from that angle and I’ll go about it the way that I feel like is best to help my community and to do long-term change from there. Personally, I feel compelled with the platform that we have. We have a great opportunity to make the biggest ripple effects.”