Reed, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, took the stage wearing a hat that matched his gold jacket and featured a shiny gold brim. He joked that he had written his speech while listening to the other inductees. Still, he managed to talk for more than 30 minutes, and the shooting Saturday in El Paso was very much on his mind, along with a July 28 incident in Gilroy, Calif. Hours later, the shooting in Dayton, Ohio, occurred.
“You know mental illness is one of the biggest problems in our world,” Reed said. “It really kills. So I’ve got to say prayers to the families that have experienced the mass shootings the last couple of days. Just in general across this country, it’s something we really need to address.”
On Thursday, Reed used his wardrobe choice to send a message about social issues, preferring to wear a T-shirt bearing the faces of young black people killed in police-related or racial incidents.
On Saturday, he spoke of growing up in a “crime-infested” neighborhood in Louisiana and how a police officer helped him out, giving him a ride home one night.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, don’t do that,’ ” Reed said. “Take me to jail because my mama is home. I remember him saying: ‘Son, I know you. I see you around here playing sports. You don’t need to be hanging with those other kids and those other guys because you have something.’
“I would say to the point of what we have going on in our society, don’t aggravate or should I say push an officer to have to do something they shouldn’t have to do.”
Reed joked as he thanked his barbers and even created a ripple in the crowd when he thanked Bill Belichick rather than former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick.
He turned serious again at the end and even addressed his own Hall of Fame bust, perhaps one of the best ever created.
“I’ll leave you with this: Because I never compared myself to any other player, I won’t start doing that now. And you shouldn’t compare yourself to anybody else,” Reed said. “And you doggone right shouldn’t worry about people who don’t like you.
“Everyone has their own greatness. Whether you reach your own greatness depends on your environment, your structure, the company you keep and your attitude. There will be good and bad, right and wrong. Your reaction of choice, good or bad, has consequences that affect you and those around you. No matter what, encourage those around you and yourself. I stayed encouraged. That guy there [speaking of his bust], no matter what, was focused. He stayed encouraged. There were some hard times; there were a lot of tears, even now.
"I tell you, each one of you, stay encouraged. Encourage each other. Help somebody. We should. We’re supposed to. That’s what being a human is about, leaving this place better than we got it. That’s all it’s about, y’all.”
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