DENVER — Broncos safety Justin Simmons has always felt a certain way.
"Social justice has been something that I've been a part of for my whole life," Simmons recently told 9NEWS sports reporter Arielle Orsuto.
Simmons is one of the most vocal leaders for the Broncos this season, but his push for racial equality in this country isn't anything new.
"I've just tried to figure out my identity. I was never white enough to hang out with my white friends or black enough to hang out with my black friends. That's why being so outspoken about it now. I feel like it is what i need to do. Guys like Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Michael Thomas, Kenny stills, those are the guys that have been outspoken since the beginning and have given guys like myself a platform to be able to use their voice and to inspire the younger generation. I think that's what you're seeing around the league is guys being more inspired to use their platform to speak out," Simmons said.
It's been four years since Kaepernick started the current conversation and the push for racial justice in the NFL. Have things changed since then and has enough been done?
"I think now you're starting to see guys are taking knees and teams and organizations are more open to guys expressing the social injustices or any ways they need to protest. You're starting to see a little bit of branding, as guys are wearing shirts in pre-game, phrases in the end zone, and they have names and phrases on the backs of helmets. We all know that that's a great step forward with the NFL joining the players but to see complete change, it's going to take a lot more than that. I think there's a total understanding that of that. It's not to bash anyone but the NFL is a very powerful driving force and organization and anything that they co-sign, you know that's powerful," Simmons said.
Right now, the NFL is putting its name next to a campaign to make a plan to vote today. Simmons said that's a crucial part of tangible change.
"Voting is huge. Voting is important because it's a way to get your voice heard and put the people in position that are best fit for your values and your ethics. There's so much more that goes into your vote and it's important to be able to educate yourself on that and to be able to use your voice to vote," Simmons said.
Education doesn't stop there. One of the main goals of his 'Justin Simmons Foundation' is educating and empowering youth in the community.
"Just having classes for our youth where an officer comes in and explains to them what cops are supposed to do at a routine traffic stop and what they're not supposed to do. I think those are some of the things that will help build the gap between community and police," Simmons said.
It's only a start, but Simmons says communication and conversations are the key first steps.
Key first steps, indeed.