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'The pain sears me every day': Von Miller pens emotional essay for TIME on racism in America and protests for justice

After taking part in and helping lead the Broncos' participation in a protest for racial justice on Saturday, Von Miller detailed his experiences as a black man in America and why George Floyd's death hit him so hard in a new column for TIME.

"I have felt this pain in varying degrees for as far back as I can remember—at least since the first time I was called a n**r in elementary school," Miller wrote. "The pain sears me every day, now. It's an emotional pain. It's a physical pain. It is the pain of oppression in a country that's supposed to be free."

Speaking of his experiences of racism as a "constant nightmare," Miller emphasized that this moment of unrest is based on a deep history of racism and violence that continues because it has not adequately been addressed.

"The social upheaval we are witnessing is not about one horrific incident in Minneapolis," Miller wrote. "This has been building up for years, decades, generations. We can either confront it for what it is and make it an inflection point in the arc of our nation's history, or we can become complicit in the perpetuation of our disease because we refuse to admit we are ill."

As the protests stretch into a third week, Miller reflected on how this moment feels different. Noting that groups of protestors appear to be more diverse and that the protests themselves are more widespread, Miller wrote, "This time may be different. I pray that it is different."

The star linebacker also emphasized that he's much more than just a professional athlete, and that people should see him as such.

"I am not a football player named Von Miller," he wrote. "I am Von Miller—a strong, proud, African-American who loves making kids smile, people laugh and my parents shake their heads. I also just happen to play football, which has given me a platform. My love for our country compels me to use it. My message is this: I am all in for unity, equality and justice. If you are committed to that, we can ride together. Let's goooo!"

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