Following the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, many Americans began publicly protesting against police brutality and systemic racism. Their calls for change grew louder after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Athletes across the country have attempted to use their popularity to amplify social justice causes and effect change.
Watson told ESPN's Tim Keown even now he feels a level of unfair scrutiny as to whether these are issues on which he can offer his opinion.
"Honestly, I'm going to take that back," Watson said. "To keep it real with you, I feel like whenever a Black quarterback speaks up, the outside world sometimes doesn't think they're educated enough to know what's going on. So in reality, they're like, 'Hey, y'all Black quarterbacks—shut up. Y'all don't know what y'all talking about.'"
Watson became aware in high school he'd be held to a different standard because of his race:
"I've known that since high school, and it goes back to being in a category that people put me in. I just felt that I always had to do more, being a Black quarterback, because from things like recruitment to camps, I always felt like they labeled me and valued me a little less than the other guys, even if I was better—and everyone knew that. I always had to do more, and I've always felt that way...until this year."
Keown noted the reigning NFL MVP (Lamar Jackson) and Super Bowl MVP (Patrick Mahomes) are Black, and Watson just signed a four-year, $156 million extension. More Black quarterbacks are in line to start in the opening week of the 2020 season as well.
Still, that doesn't undo the generations of racism Black quarterbacks had to endure, nor does it mean the situation is resolved. The success of Mahomes, Jackson, Watson, Cam Newton and many others is a sign that progress is ongoing, though.
The NFL is making a wider commitment to address the underlying origins of the nationwide protests, too.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said in June the league erred in not showing more public support for players who chose to peacefully protest and speak about social causes.
The NFL is donating a sum of $250 million over 10 years "to combat systemic racism and support the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African Americans."
The league also amended the Rooney Rule to increase diversity among the coaching and front-office ranks.