New Orleans Saints player Benjamin Watson wants to talk race

Story highlights

  • NFL tight end Benjamin Watson is a Christian, husband and father who shares his thoughts about life on social media
  • He says he believes if we can talk about race more freely, the nation can move forward
  • Watson's Facebook essay on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, went viral

(CNN)NFL player Benjamin Watson wants to tackle race. He says he believes talking about race freely is the key to moving forward.

On November 25, 2014, the tight end took to Facebook to express his thoughts about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. His message went viral with nearly 870,000 likes and more than 450,000 shares.
Watson's take on the situation in Ferguson wasn't one-sided. The essay allowed a more fresh approach to one of the most delicate conversations in the U.S.: race relations.
    "Anytime there's a situation where you've got police officers, you've got citizens, you've got the race aspect of it -- it's always a big deal. And everybody comes in on their own side. Everybody has specific experiences that lead them to their conclusions." says Watson. "I really think part of the race issue is just for us to be open and honest with each other."
    Watson ended his post by turning to the Bible. He mentioned that situations like Ferguson stem from a "sin" problem rather than a "skin" problem. However, in his Facebook post, he felt encouraged because he feels the Gospel provides hope:
    "I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn.
    "BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the His son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope."
    The reaction to Watson's post was mostly positive. But he drew some backlash when he suggested a faith-based solution to the nation's race problems.
    But his wife, Kirsten Watson, agreed with him wholeheartedly.
    "His comment is based in truth. His emotions are his emotions, so that's how he felt about it and that's his perspective and I don't think that can be argued," she said.

    Who is Benjamin Watson?

    Watson received national attention when his Facebook post on the Ferguson situation went viral. But if you aren't a diehard football fan, you may not be familiar with No. 82 of the New Orleans Saints.
    Watson entered the league when he was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2004. Six years later, he signed with the Cleveland Browns. He joined the "Who Dat Nation" in 2013.
    Watson shared his Christian beliefs while expressing how upset he was about the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Some may have been surprised about the amount of transparency the NFL player displayed.
    "Being a Christian is who you are and playing football is what you do. I think when it comes to football, God had provided me a platform and I want to be responsible for what he has given me. And it's not comfortable for me all the time," he says.
    Watson's spiritual journey began during childhood.
    Benjamin Watson sits on his dad's lap while reading a book
    "I'm the oldest of six kids. We had a 15-year gap between me and my youngest brother. My father is a pastor in South Carolina. I was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but we moved to South Carolina when I was in high school," says Watson. "My dad used to say whatever you start, finish it. You are going to give 100% because you're not doing it just for yourself, you're doing it for the Lord."
    In college, Watson found someone who shared his beliefs. He met his wife at the University of Georgia during a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting.
    "One thing that Benjamin and I said when we got married is that we wanted our marriage to be a ministry. It makes sense we would talk about healing and bringing people together," says Kirsten Watson.
    Benjamin Watson with wife Kirsten and children on February 5.
    And as a father of four -- soon to be five -- Benjamin Watson knows it all starts at home.
    "I want my kids to see me as a leader, a protector, a lover of my wife. ... Daddy caring, but also trustworthy and faithful," he says.
    The couple started the One More Foundation to make a greater impact in communities and be an example to their children.
    "We decided to start the organization not only to help others, but to leave a legacy for our kids of giving. We want them to understand that giving is important. Whether it's money, food or time, giving to someone else is what we're called to do."