FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

MICHAEL IRVIN, ED REED & BUBBA WALLACE ON PROTESTS & RACE RELATIONS — QUOTES FROM TODAY’S LUNCH TALK LIVE WITH MIKE TIRICO AND THE RICH EISEN SHOW ON NBCSN

We are in the midst of the pain that comes in the process towards progress.” – Michael Irvin on protests across the country

“You have to think about the future. You can’t look at what’s happening now (in our country) and [be] thinking that it’s over. This is not the end, it’s a new beginning.” – Ed Reed

 I’m excited to be the leader of this movement in our sport.” – Bubba Wallace on his role in NASCAR

STAMFORD, Conn. – June 3, 2020 – Mike Tirico hosted today’s episode of Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN and was joined remotely by:

    • NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace
    • Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott
    • Winnipeg Jets RW and captain Blake Wheeler
    • Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo
    • INDYCAR driver and NBC Sports motorsports analyst James Hinchcliffe

 

The Rich Eisen Show followed Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN, as host Rich Eisen was joined by:

    • Pro Football Hall of Famer and NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin
    • Pro Football Hall of Famer Ed Reed
    • ESPN NBA Insider Brian Windhorst

 

Following are highlights from The Rich Eisen Show on NBCSN:

Michael Irvin on the past week: “It’s big for us as a country and as people, a hell of an emotional roller coaster. From coming off of three months of showing solidarity and common ground to beat this invisible devil that we call COVID-19, to smack right into this situation where after showing unity, now we are perceived to be fighting each other as a race, it’s just insane what we’ve been going through.”

Irvin on the protests and COVID-19: “I was amazed at everybody coming out, everybody speaking about how important it is that we do the right thing. And then I am equally amazed at the throwing away of the security or the fight in COVID-19 because…this is as great a threat to us as COVID-19. That’s why you see people in crowds like they are, in crowds now coming off three months of not being around anybody. You’re throwing all of that into the wind and that I feel good about that everybody is saying, ‘Wait a minute. This is dangerous.’ This right here, this racism, this kind of stuff coming from that place and headed towards that place — coming from the police towards African-Americans — is as dangerous as COVID-19 and we’re skirting everything to say enough is enough…We are in the midst of the pain that comes in the process towards progress. The ugly has to be shown and we’ve seen the ugly in the (Ahmaud) Arbery case with the Gregorys…We saw that man get shot just jogging and then we see the ugly with Derek Chauvin just sitting on this man’s neck…as he cries out for help. You see that kind of stuff and you say…‘Where are we as a country?’ But to see all these people come together, all these people come and say ‘enough is enough,’ it’s pain to see all of that, but that’s progress. That’s progress because now people are starting to hear what we as African Americans have been saying for quite a while.”

Irvin on what he wants people to know: “I want us to understand, yeah, we are in pain now, but there has been great progress and we are going to see more progress. Now, now, now things will start changing.”

Irvin on law enforcement in America: “We need law enforcement for our protection. What we do not need is black men being persecuted and executed…The police officers who do wrong is the systemic issue we have that perpetuates itself that we have to root out of this country. I apologize to all of the people out there who do the right thing that get sucked into the few people that are foul and do the wrong thing…We have to get to the issue that’s above the (police) officers.”

Irvin on Dak Prescott’s contract negotiations: “He has won a lot of football games over his first four years. So, to say he doesn’t deserve the money isn’t totally correct. He does deserve the money, that is the market and he is a starting, winning quarterback in this NFL. It’s just a matter of getting it done and they will get it done…And Dak will be, for a moment, the highest-paid quarterback before Patrick Mahomes gets his (money).”

Ed Reed on how to make progress as a society: “We have to have better communication. We have to address the elephant in the room as people…Everybody needs to speak on it. Everybody from all walks of life, all backgrounds, ethnicities, creeds…When you play sports, when you’re on a team with people from different walks of life, and you have to look after each other and count on each other, race and all that stuff goes out the window when you are in the locker room…When this world and country functions as a team does, and in order to win a championship and in order to be successful, you have to be on the same page.”

Reed on the current climate in America: “A lot on the mind as always…but I have a son, I have my nieces, my nephews. I have a bunch of kids that my foundation helps out. So, you have to think about the future. You can’t look at what’s happening now (in our country) and (be) thinking that it’s over. This is not the end, it’s a new beginning. Just thinking about these kids and their future.”

Brian Windhorst on current discussions around resuming the NBA season: “We’ve had a very long run of dark days, and this is a good moment. I don’t want to rain on that moment. The vote of owners tomorrow is not going to decide whether or not there is NBA basketball. I know that’s what it’s going to seem like. What is going to decide NBA basketball is if the virus continues to recede…I’m already sensing that people are forgetting the whole reason it is going on this way, and that is safety.”

Windhorst on training concerns surrounding players returning to play: “Everybody that you talk to in the NBA on the training side are worried about these players who went cold turkey or vastly reduced their normal workout loads and haven’t been able to play any five-on-five basketball. They all have said you have to have time to build back up.”

Windhorst on talks between the NBA and NBPA: “Adam Silver has kept (President of NBAPA Chris Paul and Executive Director of NBAPA Michele Roberts) alongside the entire way here. They’re not being surprised with any proposals…In fact, Michele Roberts is so confident in the working relationship with Adam Silver that she said she doesn’t even think they’ll take a vote. So the union, I believe and I don’t know for sure, as far as I know, the union will be willing to sign off.”

Windhorst on the proposed schedule: “This schedule is going to be unfair. There’s 13 teams in the West playing eight games. Guess what? Not everyone is going to play the same schedule. Zion Williamson is a made-for-TV player, he’s probably going to have to play more difficult games than the Phoenix Suns. There’s going to be an inherent unfairness and fans and teams are going to complain about it and they’re all going to be right, but they’re all going to have deal with it…My expectation is that there will be five or six games per day…I think you could have afternoon playoff basketball.”

Following are highlights from Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN:

Bubba Wallace, who will be the featured guest on a new episode of The Dale Jr. Download tonight at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, on NASCAR’s restart and compacted schedule: “We kind of knew that NASCAR really wanted to push the initiative of being the first sport back, right? We knew that missing some of the races, we were going to have to really put in some crunch time and get after it to make up some races that we missed…Having a two month break and jumping straight into Darlington, it was like, ‘Ok, this was a gamechanger here.’ So, we made the best of it.”

Wallace on this past week and being the only African American driver in the Cup Series: “It’s been busy. It’s been a good busy. I feel proud to take on that role. A lot of people are like, ‘You shouldn’t have to feel forced to speak on this topic just because you’re the only one.’ I don’t feel forced. I feel I want to do it, I want to speak on it…This isn’t the first unarmed black man shooting that we’ve had. I’ve seen every single one of them. I’ve seen the videos and all the evidence and read all the news, and, for us, it was almost better to stay silent just because we represent sponsors, teams. It’s just, you don’t know what bridge you could cross the wrong way and end up potentially hurting your reputation and your career and so that’s always been the tough side of motorsports because you got to have the backing to keep you competitive and keep you going through. That all changed for me when I saw the Ahmaud Arbery video. I was really shaken to the core like I’ve never been before. I thought — I felt, I didn’t think — I felt inside of me to stand up for what’s right and to speak my mind and what goes on. Then we had Mr. George Floyd lose his life in the tragic deal there and it’s just been tough, to be honest with you, to decipher it all, to go through it all and try to process everything that’s going on and come up with the right messages…I don’t have the answers, no one does. No one has the answers to solve today’s problems, but…it’s all of us coming together to be one and come together as a community to help battle this issue that’s been going on for many years — it’s not something that has just come about,  it has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years — to finally put an end to it. Like I said earlier, I’m excited to be the leader of this movement in our sport and I am encouraging, I reached out to drivers today about being more vocal and stepping up and helping deliver a message that our sport desperately needs.”

Wallace on fellow drivers’ response when he reaches out to them: “It’s tough, I get it. We’re a lot of white guys that drive in circles for a living, drive in ovals for a living, and don’t have these issues. They don’t go through it. So, I can understand if it’s tough for them to speak on a matter that doesn’t directly involve you, but I feel like it’s got to indirectly impact you enough to stand up for our community, for our sport, for our fans that don’t have it so easy, that go through discrimination each and every day. So, that’s the message that I’m trying to push across that it’s not about us. I’ve gone through my struggles with law enforcement and been discriminated against and I’ve been on the opposite end of, ‘Oh, you’re Bubba Wallace. Oh, we’ll let you go.’ And that’s not right either, but it helps out on the insurance stuff so I’m not paying for so many tickets, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about our neighbors, our brothers and sisters — the ones that never get off easy just because of their skin color and I feel like, and I keep saying this and I think it holds a lot of power, Mike, you don’t know everybody who follows you. I don’t know everybody who follows me. You don’t know what type of day they’re having. You don’t know if that one follower is going to wake up and carry a ton of hate and cause more mass destruction on a community, on a race or whatever. And also, you don’t know if there’s one person that follows you that deals with that discrimination, but the words that you say and that we say, could change their mindsets just by that. So, I think it’s better to not be silent and not try just because we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing and hurting people that are supporting us. It’s the people that are looking up to us for those words to help make change.”

Sean McDermott on addressing his team this week: “We wanted to approach it head on, so we addressed it Monday. We addressed it in our team meeting and our ownership came out with a statement a little bit later that afternoon. We just feel like communication and overcommunication is of the utmost importance in times like these. We also want to listen and make ourselves available to our players.”

McDermott on watching the George Floyd video: “Very disturbing, very disturbing video to say the least. Very disappointed. Overall ashamed, to be honest with you. There’s nothing more that I want than for our country to come together. We certainly have enough challenges in front of us in our world today, and so I’d love to see our country and our world come together as one, as one team, and really unify.”

McDermott on QB Josh Allen’s leadership and setting up workouts with teammates: “As we know, playing on the field and playing well on the field is important. A big piece of that position is the inherit understanding that that position is a leadership position as well. And so, Josh has taken a huge step this offseason…I think it’s also a great example, when you look at that picture, of, to me, what America should be about. Guys together, showing their love and support for one another and working together for a common purpose.”

McDermott on dealing with the virtual offseason and high expectations: “You don’t win games this time of year…What we’ve tried to do is create a culture where we understand that we’ve got to earn things. That’s no different from where we were three years ago when we first got here when people weren’t expecting a whole lot from us…Our players have done a really good job of embracing that mindset of having to earn everything.”

Ken Niumatalolo on moving the Navy-Notre Dame season opener from Ireland to Navy: “We’re excited to play here. They’re going to be the best team we play all year and it’s still going to be a really, really hard game for us, but we’re excited.”

Niumatalolo on speaking with his players this week: “We had a team meeting two days ago…and I’m on my 13th season as a head football coach, and it was the best meeting that I’ve ever been involved with. Really it was just an open forum for my players to be able to talk. The majority of my team are black young men and being able to hear their opinion and what they thought, but also to hear some of our white players and players of other races speak. It was one of the most productive, best meetings I’ve ever been with…All I can say is wow. It’s just a super special meeting.”

Niumatalolo on what made the meeting great: “The honesty, the messaging. I think for our white players to hear our black players describe what it’s like for them and things that they had to endure growing up, it was eye-opening. These are guys that they know very well. They’re in the same locker room, they live together, but they still don’t know the things that they go through. Having one player explain that after the Trayvon Martin incident a few years ago, his parents had to teach him about not wearing a hoodie when you go into a store, don’t have your hands in your pockets, and I think just all of the other players, that’s foreign to them. It’s foreign to me as a father. I can’t imagine that those are the kinds of discussions that you have to have with your kids, but those are realities. So, I think those kinds of things and just the honesty. There’s a lot of emotion and a lot of hurt. It lasted about an hour and it was basically the players talking. The most productive, educational meeting I’ve ever been in.”

Niumatalolo on coaching at Navy: “I feel like I can have an influence on these young men, and they’re great young men…If I can have just a small piece in helping these young men go out and be better husbands, fathers, teach their children even on these kinds of cases, with racism, anything, just to help them be better people, I feel like I’ve been a successful coach more than winning games.”

Blake Wheeler, a Minnesota native and University of Minnesota alum, on Minneapolis: “It was pretty surreal, to be honest with you. To start off, just talking to my family…and hearing some of the things going on back home, it was almost like you couldn’t believe it. I think we’ve been really proud of the community back in Minneapolis for how they’ve come together to peacefully protest and it demonstrates, even after some of the destruction of the city, you’ve seen so many Minnesotans come out and help these local small businesses rebuild and clean up and kind of start to turn the page.”

Wheeler on speaking up on social media: “I think it was such a traumatic instance, and especially when it happens in your hometown. I sat there for, it seemed like a couple of days, with my wife and just wanted to say something and just not really knowing how to put these thoughts into words. It was the first time I ever had to do something like that and finally was able to kind of get out what I wanted to say. I think what pushed me over the edge a little bit was by not saying anything, by staying silent, you’re not helping. You’re not helping push things in the right direction and I believe the right direction is getting as many people to speak up as possible.”

Wheeler on the reaction to his post: “Through the people I know, there have been a lot of really positive responses and I think it’s been a lot of positives of, ‘I’m really happy you were able to say what you said. I feel the same way and I’m glad that you were able to say it and I want to speak up too.’ So, clearly, we live in a world where we’re not all going to agree on everything…but I truly believe on this particular issue we can all get behind this.”

Wheeler on the NHL’s potential return to play: “Our safety is at the top of the list and from what we’re hearing, there’s going to be a lot of testing and I think the players are good with that. We just want to make sure that we’re not taking these needed tests away from people that really need them.”

James Hinchcliffe on preparing for Saturday’s 2020 NTT INDYCAR Series season opener on NBC at 8 p.m. ET: “It’s going to an incredible challenge. You look at what the NASCAR guys have done, and they jumped straight into the race. They didn’t even get practice or qualifying…but they were coming off having started four or five races before that. We haven’t raced since September…I haven’t actually been in an IndyCar since that last race at Laguna back in September, so there’s definitely going to be some dust to be blown off.”

Hinchcliffe on his three-race deal with Andretti Autosport for this season: “It certainly stacks some challenges…Even with everything closed down during the pandemic, I didn’t get the opportunity to sort of get immersed in the team…So, we’re doing a bit of a crash course…I went in and sat in my car for the first time on Friday, so just about a week out from actually racing would be the first time I ever actually slid in it, but it’s a great group.”

Hinchcliffe on returning to racing on Saturday at the Genesys 300 from Texas Motor Speedway: “We’re all professionals, we’re all in the same boat…Ultimately everyone knows it’s a place you have to respect. As long as you respect the track and respect each other, hopefully we can get through that, get through Lap 1 and then put on a good show.”

Hinchcliffe on the rescheduled Indy 500 in August: “We definitely thought about how hot it’s going to be. It’s the first place your head goes…We’re obviously hopeful that we’ll be able to share that experience with some fans because it is such a special event.”

–NBC SPORTS–