LaDainian Tomlinson knows how to command a crowd. He’s been doing it for years with his play. But Saturday night, during the last five minutes of his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech, LT put on a show like never before.
His 26-minute speech focusing on his faith, family and football, culminated in an inspiring message to find unity in diversity.
“I’m of mixed race and I represent America,” Tomlinson said. “My story is America’s story. All our ancestors, unless we’re American Indian, came from another country, another culture. Football is a microcosm of America. All races, religions, and creeds living, playing, competing, side by side…. I’m being inducted into the Hall of Fame because my athletic ability created an opportunity for me to excel in the sport I love. When we open the door for others to compete, we fulfill the promise of one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
When asked about his speech on Friday, LT said it was going to focus heavily on his last name. No one really knew what to expect, but what they got was an emotional tale.
Tomlinson recalled the story of his great, great, great grandfather who came to America on a slave ship from West Africa. His last name was given to him by his owner, and LT grew up on the plantation owned by that slave owner. Although he didn’t know it when he was younger, he explained how he and his family visited the site a few years ago and named it Tomlinson Hill.
“The family legacy that began in such a cruel way has given birth to generations of successful, caring Tomlinsons. I firmly believe that God chose me to bring two races together under one last name, Tomlinson.”
LT drew on his own story to try and inspire others. Instead of being dismissive of others, his speech was a call to action to come together. A man used to playing on teams, he advocated for all citizens to join the same team.
“When you’re a part of a team, you understand your teammates. Their strengths, their weaknesses. And work together towards the same goal, to win a championship. In this context, I advocate we become Team America. In sports, we’re evaluated on our desire and ability and given a chance to compete. America is the land of opportunity. Let’s not slam the door on those who may look or sound different from us. Rather, let’s open it wide for those who believe in themselves, that anything is possible, and are willing to compete and take whatever risk necessary to work hard, to succeed…. On America’s team, let’s not choose to be against one another. Let’s choose to be for one another. My great, great, great grandfather had no choice. We have one. I pray we dedicate ourselves to be the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind, leading the way for all nations to follow.”
Social media reacted in doves to LT’s speech. Here are a few tweets: