Cincinnati Bengals’ Auden Tate (19) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Munson)
Photo: John Munson
Photo: John Munson

Following protests, Bengals’ Tate helps his community

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate established himself as more of an impact player last season. Now, he’s trying to make an impact on his community as well.

Tate, who is entering his third season with the Bengals, participated in some clean-up efforts in his hometown of Tampa, Fla., this week after rioters left a mess protesting the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

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Looters hit several stores in the University Mall area, and Tate was among about a dozen current and former Tampa-area football players who gathered to help clean up on Sunday. Others included Bills wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud and Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers, according to Channel 10 Tampa Bay and WTSP.com.

“I was just eating dinner with the fam, and I got a text from my brother Ray-Ray and some of the other guys I know around Tampa in a group message talking about how we could go clean it up,” Tate said in an interview Wednesday on ESPN Radio’s Golic & Wingo show. “We just want to find a way to help in some way and that was just the best way to help at that time so that’s what we did.”

Tate also attended a protest Tuesday night. He said in the ESPN Radio interview he felt a greater sense of responsibility to use his platform as a professional athlete to show others how to get involved and make a difference in their own communities. The former Florida State University receiver caught his first NFL touchdown last season and finished with 575 yards on 40 catches in 12 appearances after making just four receptions for 35 yards as a rookie.

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As a black athlete, Tate believes he can be a part of getting out the message that so many are trying to deliver through protests across the country.

“I won’t say the message is necessarily getting lost,” Tate said. “I just think people are just getting kind of fed up, and you make a big group of people angry at the same time, it ain’t going to be good, so I just think people are angry right now. They’ve got the right to be, so just finding a way to get that anger out in the right way towards the people that need changing is the biggest thing for me.”

When asked what others can do to help, Tate said “just being present” is enough. He encouraged any community-building activities, peaceful protesting and just standing alongside the black community in support, even if an individual doesn’t know what to say.

“I would say just (show) love and understanding, no pre-judgment, just everyone looking at each other the same, getting this ‘me against you’ mentality out of our head, just get it together type vibe,” Tate told ESPN Radio. “I just think there’s too much hate in this world, to be honest.”

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Tate said Bengals coach Zac Taylor has been supportive, and “that’s a positive from being on the team.” According to Tate, Taylor addressed the issue of what’s going on around the country as a result of Floyd’s death during a recent team meeting on Zoom and allowed players a chance to speak about the topic, but the 23-year-old receiver did not wish to go into more detail about the conversations between staff and players. The Bengals have been holding virtual offseason workouts while team facilities have been closed because of COVID-19 concerns.

New quarterback Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall draft pick who replaces Andy Dalton, came out on social media this week to speak up about the issue as well, saying: “The black community needs our help. They have been unheard for far too long. Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.”

Tate said he appreciated that show of leadership, which is something the rookie quarterback already has been putting on display in virtual offseason meetings. Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner who led LSU to the national championship last season, remains at his parents’ home in Athens and has yet to get a chance to throw with his new receivers, but already is gaining their trust, according to Tate.

“It’s definitely difficult with the Zoom and all that going on, but Joe Burrow, he’s very confident, he’s very well-spoken so even in the meetings he speaks up,” Tate said. “He doesn’t really waver with his voice at all so he’s very confident. You can tell he’s studying his stuff and knows a lot of it already so I’m really confident in the dude already and I haven’t even really met him face to face.”

The Bengals are in the process of gradually opening Paul Brown Stadium to employees but players likely won’t be permitted at team facilities until training camp, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Cincinnati is set to open the 2020 season at home Sept. 13 against the L.A. Chargers.

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