Chris Milton is the father of Georgia football freshman running back Kendall Milton.
The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder from Clovis, Calif., comes across as reasoned and intelligent, yet with a keen sense of emotional awareness. He carries those traits around the way he would mere 55-pound dumbbells in each hand.
The recent college graduate spoke this month at a rally against racial inequality in his community. He does not have any ministers or preachers in his family, but the untrained speaker certainly sounds like it.
📢Emerging Voice: Milton on Black Economic Empowerment, Police
In front of 3,000 protesters at Fresno police headquarters, Chris Milton delivered a strong message on the path from poverty to empowerment.https://t.co/ZPoWk3e8he@fatherofballers #fresno #blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/vDFK0ohRvc
— GV Wire | News & Politics (@GVWire) June 5, 2020
Milton also manages a hotel property that he has stated saw pre-COVID-19 annual revenues of more than six million dollars. And he will prepare a plate of ribs and mac and cheese that would have all of our grandparents asking for his recipes.
He presents as an achiever at the head of a family of achievers. But he said he felt nothing like that at one point last week. When asked to summon the words that best describe his emotions after the death of George Floyd and the events that followed, he replied with the following string:
“Hurt. Confusion. Disappointment. Defeat. Vulnerable. Broken.”
“But I tell you for sure, we’re not shaking,” Milton said. “We are unshaken. We are not quitting on this fight, though.”
That was after a night where he let himself down. Or to be very clear, where he felt that he let his son Kendall down.
The tweet he asked his son to take down
The freshman Bulldog tailback tweeted out a message that voiced his displeasure with the current administration. He stated those that did not agree with him could simply unfollow his account.
The reaction to Milton’s tweet went both ways. One account responded by saying “the last thing any of our players do is get politically involved. Kneel between those hedges and it will not be taken lightly.”
Chris Milton was disappointed by that stance. Especially taking into account how much respect Kendall had shown UGA fans on social media up to that point.
Milton told his son to take the tweet down, but later stated publicly how much he regretted doing so. He was moved to tears while discussing it.
“That someone could tell him if he chose to take a knee, then it won’t be taken lightly that’s disheartening,” Chris Milton said last week. “Especially since Kendall never said that. He never even inferred that. But to throw that out there in this climate with what is going on in society, it is concerning. Especially while preparing to drop him off across the country again back at Georgia. So the way I have to look at it, I feel like a hypocrite right now and it angers me because that is not who I am.”
“But I have to look at the big picture and you know what because I don’t trust people. So I said to Kendall to please take it down and I felt so bad about that because that’s not who we are. I’m sorry right now with this. Because I am tearing up, man. I feel like that is just another power move from people. They use that hate and they use it to control you and that’s exactly what happened and I’m beating myself up right now. Because that’s not who we are. It hurts, man. It freaking hurts, bro.”
“I’m sorry, man. I am. But you know what? I want people to know that at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, this breaks me, man. So when they see me standing up and they see me talking and when they see that, they don’t know that I just dried off some tears, man. And those tears, instead of making me quit, those tears are what makes me keep fighting. Because it is just not right. It is just not right.”
For his family, the ledger about having his son having a voice does not outweigh his greater concerns as a father.
“First and foremost, I don’t give a damn about football,” Chris Milton said. “I give a damn about my family, their safety, and their well-being. That’s always going to be first and paramount to me.”
Does he feel like his son will have that type of platform when he is older?
“To answer that question very truthfully, I feel like he should be able to have his voice now,” Chris Milton said. “I feel like he should have his voice now. I feel like that now at 18 years old as a registered voter of the United States of America that he should be able to voice his opinion and not have blowback come on him.
“But what I had to do is I had to look at the situation and I had to figure out that he’s 18 years old and he’s navigating through this stuff as a young black man, he’s part of that demographic that is really being targeted. He’s seeing what is going on. There is going to be hurt. There is going to be anger. There is going to be confusion and what feels like deceit. There are all of these emotions that he is going through so we are asking an 18-year-old kid to just suck it up and just carry the football and shut up.”
He tweeted it all made his heart hurt, and continued on with the following message:
“If you truly care about your athletes the way you care about them on game day, ask them why they feel the way that they do. Try to gain an understanding instead of being so quick to share your disagreement. People are hurting bad right now. Show some compassion and empathy. It goes a long way.”
Finding comfort in a message from Georgia football
The Milton family felt their faith in the Georgia staff was rewarded when they saw a recent tweet from coach Kirby Smart.
Just my thoughts pic.twitter.com/PMUB6y9e7J
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) May 30, 2020
There is also another narrative here that is found in another tweet. It came from his son’s reaction to a tweet from another football player in the Southeastern Conference.
— Kendall Milton (@therealkmilt) June 1, 2020
Chris Milton said that Smart has always been up-front about discussing race with his family.
“I do 100 percent believe they have a pulse on what is going on. I do 100 percent believe that about Kirby Smart,” Chris Milton said.
It mattered then. It certainly matters now.
“I do believe from day one that Kirby Smart cared,” Chris Milton said. “He proactively addressed the race relations in our recruiting meetings which were huge to add comfort to us. He proactively looked at it and said ‘What I do know for a family coming from the west coast is that there is a stereotype or reputation the South has so I know that I need to address that’ so between that and what has come out afterward [with that tweet] where the people at Georgia are boldly speaking out against this stuff that does give us a sense of comfort.”
Dan Lanning’s “Do you hear me now” tweet also resonates.
— Dan Lanning (@CoachDanLanning) June 5, 2020
“I’m less concerned about the parameters of this stuff happening at the University of Georgia and more concerned with what happens once these kids decide to exit the campus and become a regular citizen,” Chris Milton said. “I understand that I am painting with a broad stroke right now because I do know that’s not everybody. I know that for a fact that it is not everybody out there, but the fact is now the difference between now and the 1960s is that those people who dislike you blend in, right?”
“… It is almost like we have got to wear nametags that say I’m an ally versus the ones who say that I don’t mess with you.”
He feels that being a football star does not make it easier for his son.
“Not at all, if anything it heightens it,” Chris Milton said. “Because not everyone rejoices in the platform that allows him to have. For their own reasons. If you know Kendall, you know he is humble. With a big heart. Just like both of my boys. But people might take that into something like because he is a big-time football player he can not put his traffic signal on. Or that he doesn’t have to fix his taillights or whatever the case may be. It is not a get out of jail free card. Not by any means.”
George Floyd: How his death hurt the Miltons
Milton had mixed feelings about the current state of events while readying to send his son back to Georgia. He views it from two different buckets.
“I feel like the fan base is going to support our black athletes specifically because they are the black athletes at Georgia,” he said. “I think people appreciate their talent in what they do but I also believe there are people with hate that drive their emotions and beliefs. I have to take those things into consideration. I have to take both of them seriously.”
He described the conversations in his home about the death of George Floyd as more of the same. It was nothing new.
“With those situations, what they do is ultimately become another cup of water poured into a five-gallon bucket,” he said. “There have been so many things that already go into it or have been going on. There have been so many instances that have already happened to where I almost say you almost get numb to it, but it is almost to the point where you go ‘well there goes another one’ and it is unfortunate.”
It has also affected his oldest son, who just finished his college football career. KaLonn Milton is five years older than Kendall.
“When you say how does it affect my family, my oldest son and I had a heart-to-heart last night and it brought me to tears,” Chris Milton said last week. “When he is telling me ‘Dad, I feel like I have a PTSD or I get a PTSD when a police officer is behind me’ and he’s getting ready to go to the NFL and waiting for this combine in July.”
MayoClinic.org defines post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. KaLonn Milton has never had PTSD, but he told his father he now associates his feeling toward a traffic stop with that.
KaLonn is currently also working as a delivery driver for a well-known take-out delivery franchise.
“He says I am scared of going up to these homes because you don’t know people and their motives,” Chris Milton said. “You don’t know that. He says ‘I am afraid of being shot for nothing’ when I am pulling my license out of my wallet and somebody says my wallet looks like a gun. You don’t know people and their motives and you don’t know that. This is coming from a 23-year-old kid. These are the conversations I am having with my children and it hurts, man.”
He does not appreciate the blowback on black Americans sharing an honest emotion like that.
“It hurts because people mock that,” he said. “People say that we are just over-victimizing ourselves. Who wants to live like that voluntarily, though? Who makes that up and make themselves out to be a victim? We are saying these things now because people have got to hear this stuff. This is what is going on in our households.”
“Glimmer of hope” for the future
When it comes to law enforcement, he describes the reality his family lives in.
“The protocol is the protocol, “Milton said. “It is basically no different than the playbook. The volume has been turned up in a sense that we revisit it damn near daily. From the time you see the police lights come on to the time he pulls your ticket off and walks away, there are certain things they need to do inside of that time frame. There are certain preparations they need to already have in the event that they get pulled over.”
“We have to have these conversations or else I am sending them out there ill-equipped.”
Milton continues to speak out and work for change regardless of those circumstances. He has met with his city council members in California and was a part of a neighborhood task force charged with watching over a local shopping center.
— Mederios Babb (@mederiosbabb) June 2, 2020
He sent an open letter this week to his local Clovis Unified School District over issues he has seen in the system. There’s something that comes over him, he says, when that happens. He deems that to be a calling from God.
But he won’t soon forget that hurt. That “broken” feeling that left him vulnerable after he made his son take that tweet down.
When that disappointment comes up, he thinks of the good he has seen in this current struggle for racial equality. What he’s felt, he says, gives him goosebumps.
“The one thing that gives me hope is seeing the amount of non-people of color that are stepping up in their displeasure and they are stepping up in their opposition to the amount of hatred, racism and bigotry that’s going on,” Milton said. “I’ve never in my life had so many non-people of color reach out to me and say ‘Chris I apologize and I feel bad for you because I just realized that I am a part of the problem. I just realized that many things that happen to me are a result of white privilege. I see myself in situations now and I ask myself now what if I was black or if I was this person how would I feel?’ and they say ‘If I was Chris Milton would things have gone the same way that they did for me’ and now people are starting to look at that, man. I see people boldly stepping out and boldly speaking up.”
“That’s what gives me the glimmer of hope because it has to change in our society first.”
In life, we often make decisions on how to treat people based on first impressions. Just know that things aren’t always what they seem. Learn not to judge on exterior factors, show respect and show love. Those should be common factors. pic.twitter.com/uHAXbD20Q1
— Chris Milton (@fatherofballers) May 22, 2020
DawgNation has produced a series of posts this week on the racial climate across America by sharing the views of the family members of a few current Bulldogs and one elite recruit.
Check out the previous articles below.