Hicks said he’s learned to swim through other peoples’ assumptions and will continue to do so if it promotes harmony.
Few NFL players speak their minds like Bears star Akiem Hicks, but he said he often feels he must be cautious with how he carries himself.
He agreed with Colin Kaepernick’s cause in 2016, for example, but didn’t join his protest by kneeling during the national anthem because he believed he would be “blackballed” and it would end his career. Given Kaepernick’s path, that’s probably true.
But for Hicks, who is 6-foot-4, 352 pounds, that feeling goes all the way back to childhood.
“I feel like I’ve been censored my whole life,” he said Wednesday. “So for me to feel like I have to keep people at ease, to make sure there’s a calm while I’m in the room, those are natural things to me. And these things were taught to me in a way. Because at an early age, not just being a larger kid, but a larger black kid, I was seen as the antagonist in a lot of situations. I was seen as the bully. I was seen as a person, you know, just not in the best light.
“Developing my mindset going forward, I understood always that I had to make other people feel comfortable before myself. I’m going to continue to do that. I’m going to continue to make sure people feel comfortable around me. Is it unfortunate that I have to live that way? Call it what you want. But I do it because that’s how I’m able to move through society and have people be OK with me.”
That can be a suffocating way to go through life, but Hicks seems to have made peace with it. As someone who typically looks to build bridges in the locker room, he also doesn’t place the onus on his white teammates to establish good relationships.
“I don’t put any extra weight on anyone,” Hicks said. “I’d rather carry it myself, personally. I’m not going to push anybody in any direction. I want your path to take you there naturally. Whatever course you’re on, let it take you there. Whatever you feel, whatever you hear, whatever touches you in a way, I’ll let that be your moment.
“What I will say about our team [is] we do a good job, I think, of stopping separation, keeping guys together. I’ll give you an example. We’d come into the cafeteria, and let’s talk about a position group like the tight ends, who have mainly been Caucasian. They’ll be sitting at a table and there will be three guys of the same ethnicity and they’re having lunch together, and you’re not thinking anything of it.
“But we have guys on the team that will break those barriers. I’ll go sit with them. Danny Trevathan will go sit with them. Now this table isn’t just one [race]. We’re all together in this. That’s something that I noticed Kyle Long do. He didn’t care who was sitting at the table, he was coming in there and having a conversation with whatever ethnicity was at the table and that it something that is part of our organization that starts at the top.”