FORT MYERS, Fla. — Local leaders weigh in on Fort Myers council’s decision to honor to NFL champions Sammy and Jaylen Watkins. Social justice advocates applaud the council’s decision, and hope action follows to improve the community where the streets are located.
Tony Iron lives where the street names will change. He says transforming the entire stretch of American Avenue to Sammy Watkins Avenue and Dupree Street to Jaylen Watkins Street gives children in the Dunbar neighborhood something to look forward to.
“Make it in the NFL and make it to a Super Bowl. That’s saying you put your head to it your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” he said.
Sammy won this year’s Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs and his brother, Jaylen won in 2018 with the Philadelphia Eagles.
But not everyone supported Tuesday’s agenda item. Councilman Fred Burson voted against it.
“I’m not really against the street being named after them. I was just trying to make a point. I thought there should be more such as their high school football stadium,” he said.
During a time when racism and social justice issues are forefront nationwide and local with the removal of the controversial Robert E. Lee Bust, NAACP president James Muwakkil says the street signs are a step in the right direction, but its not enough.
“The Watkins have definitely earned this honor. But blacks should not be simple minded. Whites historically in this country has always held up our black entertainers and black sports people,” he said.
He wants to see more people who look like the Watkins and him working in his neighborhood.
“You need more black firefighters. You need more black police officers. You need more black sheriff’s deputies,” he said.
In addition to the Watkins brothers. Muwakkil would like to see other black leaders honored like Marcus Goodson for improvements he made to Fort Myers public housing. The street changes will cost $1,200 and are set to change within the next year.