Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson says he's always experienced a different level of scrutiny as a Black quarterback — but he's no longer letting it hold him back from speaking out about issues that matter to him.
The quarterback for the Houston Texans opens up about his career and his platform in a new interview with ESPN, published shortly after he received a four-year and $160M contract extension, the second-highest in NFL history behind Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
"I think you have to watch what you say sometimes," he said initially, before stating, "Honestly, I'm going to take that back."
Continued Watson, 24, "To keep it real with you, I feel like whenever a Black quarterback speaks up, the outside world sometimes doesn't think they're educated enough to know what's going on. So in reality, they're like, 'Hey, y'all Black quarterbacks — shut up. Y'all don't know what y'all talking about.' "
Watson talks about the perception of a quarterback as a team's figurehead, and how that has led to countless judgments of everything from how he speaks to how he dresses.
"I've known that since high school, and it goes back to being in a category that people put me in," Watson told ESPN. "I just felt that I always had to do more, being a Black quarterback, because from things like recruitment to camps, I always felt like they labeled me and valued me a little less than the other guys, even if I was better — and everyone knew that. I always had to do more, and I've always felt that way — until this year."
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Deshaun Watson
Watson said in the interview that he experienced racism growing up that was "definitely hurtful." He continued, "But the way I grew up, and the way I saw it, it was kind of normal. So as a young boy, it was kind of like, 'I guess this is the way it should be.' And this is the way it has been for a long time."
A dozen athletes, including Watson, recorded a message urging the professional sports league to address racism and to "admit wrong in silencing [its] players from peacefully protesting." The players said they "will not be silenced" and they "assert our right to peacefully protest," referencing Colin Kaepernick's #TakeAKnee movement.
Following the video, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league was "wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."
Things, Watson told ESPN, feel "different."
He said, "It feels like a change is happening. It feels like voices are getting heard."