Protests and unrest in Ferguson, Mo., might not be drawing a ton of headlines anymore. The Michael Brown shooting and aftermath is out of the public eye as the 24-hour news cycle turns to other topics.
Tyron Woodley wouldn’t know. Everything happening in Ferguson directly affects his life — he lives there.
"It’s way too close to home," Woodley told FOX Sports. "I have to take a stand because I’m from there."
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That’s exactly what the UFC fighter plans on doing. Woodley has enlisted the help of boxer Andre Ward, former Ohio State college football star Maurice Clarett and other celebrities and athletes for a speaking tour in the city. The group will visit schools and community centers, spreading a message of change and peace to youth.
"It’s something I’m passionate about and I think it’s an important way for me to make a big stance," Woodley said. "Most of the people tearing up Ferguson aren’t even from Ferguson, which pisses me off."
Woodley, 32, said he and the others who will join him on the tour all have different stories, but they share one thing in common: they were able to persevere and make it out of tough areas without resorting to criminal behavior. Woodley doesn’t agree with how the police have treated citizens in Ferguson, but he also abhors the way some people have acted, looting and rioting his neighborhood.
Don’t go down there and riot and throw stuff all over the place and be stealing. … If you live there and you’re doing it, you’re an idiot.
"It’s a really nice part of St. Louis," Woodley said. "Don’t go down there and riot and throw stuff all over the place and be stealing. … If you live there and you’re doing it, you’re an idiot. You have to drive by there and you just made your community look really vagrant and beat up. How do you think that makes the community look?"
Woodley said that he hears a lot of people speaking and protesting with empty words, yet he feels like not enough people are taking action. That’s why he’s collected this group of people to spread the important message.
"People growing up, they don’t work hard anymore," Woodley said. "We used to work hard as hell for everything we got. Now, they want instant gratification. They want things to change now, they want justice now."
A grand jury is currently deciding whether or not there is enough evidence to arrest Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Brown in August. Brown, an 18-year-old African American, was unarmed. Wilson is white.
Things got very ugly in Ferguson in August as police used tear gas against protestors.
Racial tensions boiled over in Ferguson between the mostly black citizens of the area and the primarily white police force. Cops dressed in riot gear used tear gas and arrested journalists, seemingly for no reason. Protestors looted and rioted. It was an ugly mess.
Woodley had to watch most of it on the news from afar. While it was going on, the UFC’s third-ranked welterweight contender was preparing to fight Dong Hyun Kim in Macao on Aug. 23. Though it was obviously a distraction, Woodley ended up knocking Kim out in the first round.
"The Chosen One" fears that the grand jury’s decision will lead to more rioting, regardless if Wilson is arrested or not. A verdict could come down in November.
"I think it’s going to cause quite a bit of chaos," Woodley said.
Much like he did with Kim, he’s trying to beat the unrest to the punch with his speaking tour. Woodley is trying to do whatever he can to help as a successful Ferguson native with notoriety.
"I think they shouldn’t tear down a city," Woodley said. "I’m trying to prevent that from happening."