As football, basketball, hockey, and track & field stars walked the red carpet, we asked them for one piece of advice they’d share with the next generation of athletes at home watching them gathered together in a room in Hollywood hoping for a chance to one day be in their shoes. For pro wrestler Titus O’Neil, the answer to that question spoke more to the community activist side of being a professional athlete than it did the physical training and mental toughness that allows one to participate in sports on a national stage.
“Let’s not be ignorant to the realities of our country,” the global ambassador for the WWE told ESSENCE. “But more so let’s not be dead-set on the negatives of it. Let’s look at the positives and make real, positive effective change. I’m not a political person. I could care less if you’re democrat or republican, I want people to vote. Go vote for who you feel like is the best candidate. But prior to getting involved in elections, you need to get involved in your communities, whether it’s going to a local school and tutoring, helping a food bank, or starting your own nonprofit.”
O’Neil made headlines earlier this week for the passionate speech he delivered at the opening of Monday night’s WWE Raw episode as he spoke to the need for more “goodwill” in his hometown of Tampa, Florida. Doubling down on that sentiment on the ESPY Red carpet, he said, “You can’t cry and complain about what’s going on in your city or your state or your country if you’re not doing something at home. It all starts at home.”
Check out our full interview with O’Neil in the video above.