Cowboys defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recently became aware of Opal Lee. Her story has inspired him to take action.
Lee, a 93-year-old retired schoolteacher, has been trying to get the U.S. government to make June 19 — Juneteenth — a national holiday. Starting tomorrow, she will embark on her second walk in the past four years from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, D.C. She will cover 2.5 miles per day, to symbolize the 2.5 years slaves had to wait from the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to their actual freedom.
“I’m so glad she brought awareness to this — that’s why it’s so great, that’s why I’m trying to spread as much about this as possible so this becomes regular on Juneteenth, walk 2.5 miles to commemorate the two and a half years the slaves didn’t know they were free,” McCoy told Todd Archer of ESPN. “This is something I’m going to continue and be glad to continue. Even when it becomes a national holiday, I’ll do even more then.”
The argument for making it a national holiday is simple: That’s the day when everyone in the country finally became free.
“Our true independence as African Americans, our true day of freedom should be celebrated nationally,” McCoy said. “Independence Day is celebrated nationally, but that envelope was not pushed since that didn’t free everybody, that wasn’t about everybody. The Emancipation Proclamation was finalized in 1863, but it wasn’t until 1865 that all slaves in Texas realized that we are free. That should be celebrated nationally.”
McCoy will walk 2.5 miles near his home in Oklahoma on Friday.
“With all that’s going on, I think everybody is doing their part,” McCoy said. “This is just me trying to do my part, which is creating change. It’s time. It’s been this way for too long. We can use our voices. I’m not speaking for me. I’m not speaking for other celebrities. I’m speaking for the voices that people don’t hear. I’m speaking for the people that don’t have the platform to say what they want to say. That’s why it’s vital people are listening.”
McCoy hopes his new team will get involved in the effort.
“You have the players, who have their own brand, but we’re all under the umbrella of the Dallas Cowboys,” McCoy said. “The Dallas Cowboys are the most recognized franchise in the world. They can get behind it, whether it’s the players or just being in the movement, period, and showing their support. It would be great to hear a statement from the Cowboys, great to hear a statement from Jerry Jones in support of everything that’s going on. Will that get me in trouble saying that? I don’t know, but the truth is it needs to be said. The problem is people are afraid to have the conversations.”
Jones, who usually has something to say about everything, has been criticized by non-Cowboys for his protracted silence amid current events. McCoy is the first member of the Cowboys to call upon one of the most recognizable faces and voices in all of sports to chime in regarding one of the most important issues of our time.