Everyday, each one of us is presented with the opportunity to have our characters tested. It is up to us to champion these daily challenges. This, however, is often easier said than done.
One such event that showed us this was when New Orleans Saints coach, Gregg Williams, encouraged his players to go into the field and maim their brothers. During his speeches, he rubbed his fingers together for an added effect, baiting his players with cash reward if they would only do his bidding. Even with a steady litany of vile exhortations, his team remained silent to the coach casually throwing orders to injure the other team.
Read these following quotes that coach Gregg Williams said:
On running back Frank Gore:
“We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head. We want him running sideways. We want his head sideways.”
On running back Kendall Hunter:
“Little 32, we’re going to knock the f— out of him.”
On Alex Smith:
“Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head.”
On Kyle Williams:
“We need to find out in the first two series of the game, that little wide receiver, No. 10, about his concussion. We need to f—— put a lick on him right now. He needs to decide. He needs to f—— decide.”
With each of these speeches, Williams presented his men with an opportunity to stand up and do what was right – to stand up and say, “This is unethical. This is wrong. I won’t do it.”
But the Saints were not saints. As far as I know, no one stood up in those pre-game meetings to challenge the coach.
Speak the Truth or Face Consequences
Challenging authority is hard. Speaking truth to power can have big consequences. But remaining silent in the face of wrong always has bigger consequences. Mankind’s greatest failures occur when good men remain silent, and thus complicit, when they are faced with wrong.
In my own life and careers I’ve taken some pride in my own willingness, or rather my eagerness, to speak truth to power. There’s a chance that outspokenness on such issues will come at significant cost, but as Mother Teresa said, we are not called to be successful, but to be faithful.
Today is an opportune time to think about the sacrifices that must accompany truth. Good men will always have the opportunity to have their character tested. Have you had the opportunity to have your character tested? How did you handle it? We’ve all made mistakes, and we will all make more, but we must do our best to align our behavior with our values.
If I was sitting in the locker-room listening to Coach Williams make those remarks, I’d like to think that I would’ve said something. The reality is I don’t know if I would have. It’s a hard place to be.
The time to think about it – and to plan your own response – is now.
I normally write articles in a quiet environment, but today I’m writing at the firehouse table with the television playing right in front of me. The news channels are playing and replaying a video footage of a college fraternity singing a revolting, racist song. I wonder why no one stopped them. I wonder why no one stood up and said “This is wrong.”
Firefighters wear the Maltese Cross, a symbol which connects them to the knights of old who stood for honor, chivalry and sacrifice against evil. As firefighters, you may be called to earn your Maltese Cross on the fireground, or on the battlefield where your character is under attack. Be ready.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke, Irish orator, philosopher, & politician (1729 – 1797)