Dr. Myron Rolle on growing up with racism, expectations as a Black man


Dr. Myron Rolle's credentials speak for themselves. A sixth-round NFL Draft pick out of Florida State in 2010, Rolle spent three seasons in the league as a safety with the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers.

What came after his NFL stint is even more impressive. Rolle left football behind to attend medical school in 2013 and later graduated from Florida State University College of Medicine. Currently, he's a neurosurgery resident at Mass General Hospital.

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Even with that impressive résumé, Rolle understands that unfortunately there is a smaller margin of error because of his skin color. As part of Black History Month, Rolle spoke to NBC Sports Boston about the challenge of growing up with the societal pressures that come with being a Black man in America.

"My parents were just like any other immigrant family, wanted us to be successful in school, in sports, and they wanted to make sure that we understood that we looked a bit different than the people who were around us, but we didn't allow it to stop us or stymie our growth. I appreciate my parents for emboldening us and giving us that confidence," Rolle said.

"Being two or three times better than your counterparts is a common theme and a common lesson that's taught to young Black men and women in America. We may not get a second or third chance. If I make one wrong move, because of the way I look and how someone may interpret what I'm doing and what I am at this particular time and space, it could really derail all things for me. So it is a lot of pressure.

Rolle recalled examples of how he was forced to endure racism throughout his childhood.

"I remember walking in stores in my hometown in South Jersey near Atlantic City and being followed by the store owner whereas my white classmates who walked behind me was able to do whatever he wanted to do and move how he wanted to move. That was a little bit uncomfortable for me," Rolle said.

"I remember being on a school bus and having racial epithets thrown at me through classmates who would use derogatory words, the n-word, call my mother the b-word. ... [I'd] have to take that in, soak that in, and say 'You know what? I'm going to rise above this, I'm going to be better than you, and I'm not going to respond to you or move to your level because you want to put me down to a level that I don't want to be at."

After spending time in football and in the medical field, Rolle notes being a Black leader in either profession comes with a different set of expectations and responsibilities.

"I think the similarities between being a Black neurosurgeon and a Black quarterback are vast," he said. "You walk into a field, neurosurgery, where you look on the wall of the sort of pioneers of neurosurgery and they do not look like you. Your mistakes magnified, your mistakes not given second, third, fourth chances sometimes.

"These are issues that Black quarterbacks face too. They walk into a field where they are told you need to be prototypical, you need to talk a certain way, dress a certain way, there's a different playing field for you and you have to be always on your game, always on top, always prepared."

Hear everything Rolle had to say in the video above.

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