Frank Ragnow's Eyes Are Open After 'Heartbreaking' Team Meetings

"I don’t want to be a part of that problem anymore."

Will Burchfield
June 05, 2020 - 3:55 pm

As he spoke with reporters during a Zoom call Friday afternoon, Frank Ragnow now and then fell silent, shaken by his thoughts, at a loss for words. It's been an 'eye-opening' week for Ragnow, a 24-year-old from a white background who has listened to his black teammates tell him about a world he thought he knew. 

"Just uncomfortable hearing them talk about situations that have happened throughout their life that they have to think about," Ragnow said. "I was obviously aware that there was a problem in this country and I knew that we’re not perfectly united, but I’m sick to my stomach the things that I have heard from some of my teammates, friends and brothers that they have to worry about and deal with. It’s been very eye-opening, very uncomfortable, very real. 

"As a white person, I've just been trying to listen and let them know -- and let really every black person know -- that I don’t want to be a part of that problem anymore. I want to be there with them. I know I can’t really ever put myself in their shoes, but I want to help make it better. That’s kind of been the theme this week in our meetings. We’re all trying to learn, listen and be together."

The Lions put football on the backburner this week. As protests against police brutality and racial inequality continue across the United States, they dedicated their meetings to conversations about a nation in turmoil. About a nation in pain, a nation in anger, and a nation hungry for change. Many players spoke up. Safety Duron Harmon, for one, talked about being targeted by police officers based on the color of his skin and 'how you feel as a black man in society.'

Ragnow mostly listened. 

"I’m learning about how many things I go about in my daily life that maybe a person of color has to double-think about. Things that I take for granted. I knew there was discrimination in this country, but I guess I just didn’t realize the day-to-day, the second-to-second issues that my teammates, friends, brothers have all had to go through. And that’s been the most eye-opening and heartbreaking to me," Ragnow said. 

As someone who grew up just outside Minneapolis, Ragnow has a unique perspective on all this. The city has been the epicenter of a national movement following the death of George Floyd. Ragnow watched the video of Floyd's murder, of a white police officer taking the life out of a black citizen, and struggled to explain his reaction. 

"Watching the video," Ragnow began, then paused for several seconds. "I mean, what do you say? It’s disgusting. Inhumane. Anger. I mean, just confusion. How is that even reality today in 2020? There’s so many good things in this world and how is that even a reality? It’s just a lot of confusion, that was kind of my reaction. Just, what the heck? And being so close to Minneapolis, I guess as a privileged person it’s made it more real and opened my eyes even more. It’s a shame that it took it being this close to me for me to open my eyes, but I’m happy that my eyes are open now."

One things Ragnow's learned is that there's a misnomer about white privilege. 

"White privilege doesn’t mean you’ve had a privileged life, no trouble, no problems, no adversity. It just means your skin color hasn’t caused that problem," he said. "And what I’ve been able to learn from a bunch of very smart people who are being impacted by this, is I just need to do listen," he said. "I’m a proud American and I believe this is the greatest country in the world, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. And people need to understand that."

To help bring about change, Ragnow said he'll "do whatever it takes." When the NFL season begins, that will likely include some form of peaceful protest by the players. If that means joining his black teammates and kneeling during the national anthem, Ragnow said "that’s something we'll definitely discuss."

"I can’t guarantee anything. What I can say is I will be 100 percent supporting them. I don’t want to jump ahead that far. I want to talk with my team and we’ll come up with some sort of plan to be able to support them," he said.