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LaDainian Tomlinson’s inspirational Hall of Fame speech about unity was the best of the night

Tomlinson and Kenny Easley both used their time at the podium to touch on social issues.

LaDainian Tomlinson delivered an unforgettable Hall of Fame acceptance speech on Saturday night. Tomlinson used the platform to share a message about unity.

Tomlinson said in his speech that football can serve as a model for a more united nation.

“All our ancestors, unless we're American Indian, came from another country, another culture,” Tomlinson said. “Football is a microcosm of America. All races, religions and creeds, living, playing, competing, side by side.”

He told the story of his great-great-great grandfather, George, who was brought to America as a slave 170 years ago. He was given the last name Tomlinson by the man who owned him.

“Tomlinson was the slave owner's last name,” Tomlinson said. “What extraordinary courage it must have taken for him to rebuild his life he was born to that was stolen. How did he claim his identity, his dignity when he had no freedom to choose for himself?”

Now Tomlinson and his family carry the name proudly.

“People stop me on the street because they know me as LT the football player, but after football people have begun to recognize me as LaDainian Tomlinson,” Tomlinson said. “Not simply for what I did as a football player but for who I am as a man. 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 help bring two races together under one last name — Tomlinson. I'm of mixed race and I represent America. My story is America's story.”

And Tomlinson said that our nation is like a team.

“On America’s team, let’s not choose to be against one another,” he said. “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 being the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind. Leading the way for all nations to follow.”

Tomlinson wasn’t the only Hall of Fame inductee to touch on social issues. Former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley hit the issue of police brutality against black Americans head on in his speech.

“Black lives do matter. And yes, all lives matter, too. But the carnage affecting young black men today, from random violence to police shootings, across the nation has to stop,” Easley said. “We’ve got to stand up as a country, as black Americans, and fight the good fight, to protect our constitutional right to keep people from dying while driving or walking down the streets for being black in America. It has to stop and we can do it. And the lessons we learn in sports can help.”

Easley’s teleprompter went off before he was finished with his speech.

Tomlinson and Easley joined Terrell Davis, Jason Taylor, Kurt Warner, Morten Andersen, and Jerry Jones as the 2017 Hall of Fame class.