OAKLAND, Calif - During Marshawn Lynch’s 12 NFL seasons he earned a reputation for his fearless style on the field, while remaining one of the league’s most reclusive figures off the field.
Now the retired running back is lending his voice to try to help members of Black and Hispanic communities make more informed decisions about receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
And he’s enlisted the assistance of the nation’s top infectious disease specialist to do it.
Lynch released a 30-minute interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci on his YouTube channel Friday, becoming the latest prominent athlete to sit down with him to discuss the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines as the U.S. continues to combat the pandemic.
Since hanging up his cleats following the 2019 season, the 34-year-old Lynch has stayed entrenched in his native Oakland, California, community through his Fam 1st Family Foundation, which has spearheaded several educational and philanthropic initiatives to assist residents.
Lynch himself hasn’t been vaccinated and he pointed out to Fauci that distrust in his community remains high regarding vaccine safety.
"When it comes to the government giving back to communities that look like me, we don’t seem to be on the well-received end of those situations," Lynch told Fauci during the interview, which was recorded late last month. "It gets to the point where it’s almost like a gamble."
Campaigns aimed at Black communities across the U.S. are making headway in the effort to persuade people the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
The efforts have gotten a boost from millions of dollars via President Joe Biden’s administration and though local groups who have urged Black Americans to get vaccinated and set aside what for some is a shared historical distrust of science and government.
A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in March found that about 24% of Black American adults said they will probably or definitely not get vaccinated. That’s down from 41% in January. The latest number shows Black Americans leaning against getting shots in almost the same proportion as white Americans at 26% and Hispanic Americans at 22%.
Fauci said it’s a reluctance he understands well in the Black and Hispanic community.
"The reluctance you express is a reluctance that’s founded in historical reality," Fauci said. "So how do we get past that? And the reason why we’ve got to get past that is because we don’t want African-Americans in the community to not have the advantage of the protection of something that really works because of history."
And he said he wants to tap every outlet available to get information out.
"That’s why we’re talking to you, Marshawn," Fauci said.
Like he’s done in other interviews Fauci addressed common concerns people have expressed regarding the coronavirus vaccines, such as the speed of their development. He also pointed out that minority communities were well-represented during clinical trials.
"Even though it was developed in less than a year to put into people, it took decades of work to get to that point," Fauci said.
Lynch’s interview with Fauci also comes as multiple NFL players issued statements through the NFL Players Association stating their intentions not to participate in in-person voluntary workouts at team facilities this offseason. The list includes two of Lynch’s former teams: the Seattle Seahawks and Las Vegas Raiders.
In a memo sent to all 32 teams Tuesday which was obtained by The Associated Press, Commissioner Roger Goodell said COVID-19 safety protocols will start to be relaxed as players and other team members get vaccinated.
Lynch said he hopes the efforts to have more dialogue with minority communities continues after the pandemic is brought under control.
"It’s all educational for me," Lynch said. "Hopefully, this gets across to the individuals that need the information, that need the education. Hopefully, it makes an impact."