Fresno-native and Pittsburgh Steelers player Robert Golden delivered these comments via video:
When Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld shared his thoughts on the NFL player’s protest of the National Anthem, his colleague Oliver Baines was on official city business in Spain. In that Sept. 28 address, Bredefeld criticized the players for disrespecting the flag. Bredefeld also touched on race relations in America, referencing Michael Brown and Colin Kaepernick.
“As a veteran and someone who loves the military and this country, I find the kneeling behavior of the NFL players and owners during the playing of the National Anthem to be repugnant, disrespectful, misguided, and they dishonor our country and themselves,” Bredefeld said.
When Baines returned to Fresno a few days later, he expressed his dismay on social media. Baines and Bredefeld had a private meeting, and both posted on their respective Facebook accounts about its productivity. At that time, Bredefeld apologized for some of his remarks.
I’ve Experienced Racism: Baines
In the first council meeting since Bredefeld’s initial comments, Baines delivered a 25-minute response. He said his colleague’s words hurt him deeply. “They were painful,” he commented. Baines apologized to City Clerk Yvonne Spencer, who like himself, is black, for Bredefeld’s remarks.
At the beginning of his comments, Baines got so choked up that he had to pause. Councilman Paul Caprioglio jumped in. He also was on the same trip to Spain. “It was embarrassing and shocking,” Caprioglio said of hearing the news thousands of miles away.
“It was very difficult to think that a person that I work with to have these ideas about people of color. It was extremely damaging and painful. That’s where my emotion comes from because we work together,” Baines said of Bredefeld.
Baines noted the NFL player’s protest is peaceful and meant to make you think. Baines quoted Confederate leaders and the Confederate constitution and delved into the history of civil rights, evoking the names of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson.
He also talked about racism and police misconduct. “It’s happened to me personally,” Baines said. Before his election to council in 2010, Baines served as a Fresno police officer.
Concluding, Baines hoped this would be an opportunity to heal.
“While I was very pained by your comments, I also do realize there is an opportunity, should you choose to take it. Should I choose to take it. This is the most difficult discussion of our time.” He told Bredefeld, “If you just pause for a moment and understand this country through our eyes, it may make you feel a little differently.”
Then, the public commented, mostly all condemning Bredefeld’s comments. Local businessman and investor Terance Frazier spoke, along with his daughter. Other speakers included Rev. D.J. Criner and Pastor B.T. Lewis.
From the city’s live video feed of the meeting, Bredefeld appeared to stay and listen from the dais the entire time.
I feel like as a Fresno community, there is so much we can be focused on in Fresno to improve our city rather than focus what’s going on in the National Football League,” Golden added. “We can become a better nation. If we stay together and stay united, we can make this world a better place. Go Fresno!
Steelers’ Robert Golden Makes Video Remarks
Baines then played a video of Fresno native and current Pittsburgh Steelers player Robert Golden, who defended his team taking a knee and their treatment of teammate Alejandro Villanueva. Bredefeld referenced the incident when the Steelers stayed in the tunnel during the playing of the National Anthem, while veteran Villanueva stood in public view with hand over heart. Villanueva apologized to his teammates later in the week. Bredefeld claimed he was shamed by his teammates into doing it.
Villanueva apologized to his teammates later in the week. Bredefeld claimed he was shamed by his teammates into doing it.
“It was a total myth how we shamed our brother,” Golden said. “By no means where we upset at him. By no means, did we make him apologize.”
“I feel like as a Fresno community, there is so much we can be focused on in Fresno to improve our city rather than focus what’s going on in the National Football League,” Golden added. “We can become a better nation. If we stay together and stay united, we can make this world a better place. Go Fresno!”
Bredefeld spoke for 10 minutes after the public comments and apologized. He said it was never his intent to harm.
“When I said the words, I didn’t think it was going to have that effect. Clearly, it did,” Bredefeld said.
He called this one of the most difficult experiences of his life: “I hear you. I understand how painful my words were. I am sorry it caused you pain. From this point forward, I will be much more aware of those kinds of comments.”
Councilman Garry Bredefeld apologizes:
Watch Baines’ entire speech: