Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey has said he will protest during the National Anthem and take a fine for violating the NFL’s new rule barring players from demonstrations during the anthem. Casey told CNN, “I’m going to take a fine this year, why not? I’m going to protest during the flag. That’s what I’m going to say now.”
Casey, a 28-year-old three-time Pro Bowler from California who just signed a four-year $60.4 million extension with the Titans last year, told CNN he would be continuing his “respectful” protest that he did last year. Casey would raise his fist after the anthem was played, according to CNN. “It is what it is, I ain’t going to let them stop me from doing what I want to do. If they want to have these battles between players and organizations, this is the way it’s going to be,” he told CNN.
Casey, who played football at USC after growing up in Long Beach and is married to a lawyer, told CNN, “There is always going to be blowback, that is what America is about. They always like to go on social media and go hard. It is what it is, at the end of the day, I don’t pay no mind to it. I’m going to do what I do that’s going to bring light to my community. At the end of the day we got to do a job,” added Casey. “But I will continue to use my platform to keep on speaking up.”
Casey, who was raised by a single mother and whose brother is serving time in prison on a murder conviction, has worked with his wife, Ryann Gray Casey, to help at-risk youth and people who are incarcerated and recently released from prison. He has also been active in criminal justice causes and is involved in other charity work.
Here’s what you need to know about Jurrell Casey, his wife and his family:
1. Jurrell Casey & His Wife, Ryann Gray, Met at USC & Were Married in 2016
Jurrell Casey has been married to Ryann Gray since 2016. They met while they were both students at the University of Southern California, according to The Tennessean. They were in a criminal justice class together, called adolescent gang prevention. Gray is originally from Oakland, California.
“She was an A-plus student and I was one of those athletes that needed some help,” Casey told The Tennessean. “I’d go to her, but it’s not like she would just give me the answers. She would actually take time to tutor me. That’s one thing I think of still to this day. She tried to help me and build my character off the field.”
Casey was drafted by the Titans in 2011 and his future wife was still in Los Angeles, studying at the Loyola Marymount University law school, according to The Tennessean. Gray told the newspaper, “He was super-supportive of me, always bringing me coffee when I was studying and making Sunday night ours when we started to step to the next level.”
The couple, who had been friends at USC, started officially dating during her second year of law school. They made the long distance relationship work as Casey adjusted to life as a star player in the NFL.
“Almost any football player, you’re entering this new world where you get to go to clubs every night and do all that kind of stuff,” Gray told the newspaper. “To me, it was like, ‘You can hang out in the clubs or you can date me. Because we’re not going to do both. I’m not in a place where I want to do both. You had college to play around.'”
Casey told the newspaper, “It was a point where I had to sit down and think to myself, ‘This is the lady I want to be with,’ someone I really admired. So I sent her a long text message telling her I really enjoy our relationship and I really do think that we can build on the things we did in college. From that day on, I kind of made it all about her.”
Casey and Gray were married in 2016 at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, California. They live together in a Nashville home they bought earlier that year. On Valentine’s Day in 2018, Casey posted a throwback photo of his wife in her wedding dress and wrote, “The day I married you I knew from there on our life was going to be full of love!!!”
2. Casey’s Wife Works as a Public Defender in Nashville & She Is Pregnant With Their First Child
Jurrell Casey’s wife Ryann Gray Casey is an assistant public defender at the Metro Nashville Public Defender’s office, according to her Linkedin profile. She has worked there for 2016 after spending a year interning there and at the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office. She also worked as a summer law clerk at the Inner City Law Center and as a legal assistant at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender.
She told WAGS Redefined in 2016 that it was difficult on her relationship with her future husband while she was in law school, but they were strong enough to get through it:
Throughout law school, maintaining a long distance relationship, especially with a professional athlete was extremely stressful. We were both extremely busy, but I made it a priority to travel to Nashville multiple times throughout the year, especially during football season, to provide extra support to him. However, often, our schedules did not match. When he was getting out of practice, I was just getting into the groove with my homework. Honestly, because of my school schedule, I missed out on a lot of Jurrell’s events and even more importantly, some of his accomplishments. I had to rely on pictures instead of being there myself. This led to a lot of frustration within both of us, and even more guilt within me. I had to remind myself that I had to be concerned with not only his happiness, but my continued success. Sometimes, this thought process provided some solace for me, but other times my frustration and guilt remained unchanged. My last year of law school was especially frustrating. Jurrell and I were growing closer, which only made the distance and time between seeing each other seem even further and more spread apart.
To combat these feelings, Jurrell and I regularly prayed with each other and had Bible study’s together. Also, we constantly sacrificed for one another. Sometimes, this meant Jurrell staying up a little later or sometimes me getting up a little earlier in the morning. I am blessed to have a man that is not only patient, but supports my dreams. I am truly grateful for him.
In 2017, she told WKRN-TV that her experience growing up in Oakland pushed her to want to become a defense attorney. She eventually wants to have her own law firm, she has said. “Growing up in Oakland, you realize that people are getting arrested in higher rates; police are policing areas in higher rates in lower income communities. So in general, I noticed that just a lot of people [were] being arrested,” she told the news station. “I think the need for public defense or just defense in general comes from the fact that policing is happening at different rates in different communities.”
Ryann Casey told the news station, “I am privileged to be in a position where I don’t technically have to work, but I’ve worked hard on my own to get this far, and just because my husband has a good job doesn’t mean that I won’t. Also, like I said from the beginning, I wanted to make a difference and this is where I feel like I can do that.”
Casey said about his wife’s profession, “We have a presumption of innocence to start this whole process off, so there should never be an assumption that somebody did something.” She said her husband has always been supportive her goals and career.
“I like to tell people he is my biggest hype man. He describes me as strong. He’ll call me powerful even at home; he just describes me as a really good lawyer,” she told WKRN. “He is really proud of the fact that I continue with my goals, so even when I moved out here, I stayed in my path and continued law school and continued kind of doing what I wanted to, do outside of him.”
Ryann Casey is now pregnant with their first child, a son who they plan to name, Nolan, according to his Instagram.
“his woman right here has changed my life in many ways, every day, every year I continue to grow as a man because of all the love and trust you have in me to lead our family. Our Lil man Nolan is blessed to have you as a mother for a example as a great woman and wife! I love you and happy 2nd Anniversary baby mama,” Casey wrote on Instagram on July 1.
In earlier post announcing his wife’s pregnancy, Casey wrote, “Things just seem to continue to go up for my family and I. We just keep getting bigger by the day! I love my Queen and glad she’s the one caring my joy, can’t wait to see the first smile on your face, little one!”
3. He Wrote a Tribute to His Mother, a Single Mom, on Instagram, Saying She Is ‘Always There’ for Her Children
Jurrell Casey was raised in Long Beach, California, by a single mother, Collette Burns. He wrote on Instagram in 2018, “Happy Mother’s Day to my beautiful mother, you’re always there for your children when we need you most! I love you and pray to have many more mother days to spend with you.” In a similar message a year earlier, he wrote, “Happy Mother’s Day to this Wonder Woman! It’s a true blessing to be able to call her mom. Love you! Want to wish all the strong mother’s also a happy Mother’s Day.”
His mom, Collette Burns, worked as a cafeteria worker when he was growing up. His mother was there in 2016 when he signed his new contract extension with the Titans, according to USA Today. He told the newspaper, “Coming from where I grew up and the things my family has had to deal with, this is huge for us/ I am able to help a lot of people back where I am from, and my goal is always to give back. And I am able to do that now.”
When Casey was named as the Titans’ Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominee in 2016, he said watching his mom growing up inspired him to want to give back. “My mom really brought us up that way, and just seeing her open her arms to people in the community, trying to put a smile on the faces of other people, it made an impact on me. And being with my wife has driven me to want to do that even more, because she is a real kind and giving woman, always wanting to look out for other people besides herself. Just to see two people like that, two strong women in my life, to see them put other people in front of them, I think that is great and it drives me to want use my platform to give back just like they do,” he said in a statement released by the Titans.
Casey has nine brothers and sisters, according to his bio on the Titans website.
4. His Brother Is Serving 25 Years in Prison for His Role in a Fatal Shooting When He Was a Teen & Casey Has Spoken Out About His Story
Jurrell Casey’s older brother, Jurray Casey, is serving a 25-year sentence in prison on a murder conviction for his role in a fatal shooting that took place when he was a teenager, according to The Tennessean. Jurrell Casey spoke out about his brother’s story and how it impacted his life and his views on the criminal justice system in a 2015 interview with the Tennessee newspaper.
“I’m sure I could have gone down the same road, but once that incident happened, I realized that every decision you make off the field can deter you from your goals,” Jurrell Casey told The Tennessean. “He was such a great athlete and he was so smart, always getting As and Bs in high school. But he hung out with a bad crowd, and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were bad decisions. That’s what I ended up learning from the whole situation.”
The shooting happened in January 2006, Jurray, then 17, was in a car with three of his friends and his cousin when they passed a truck. Police said the car Jurray was in made a U-turn and chased down the other car and someone inside of Jurray’s car opened fire, killing a 17-year-old inside the other vehicle, Rashad Ali. Jurray Casey was the only person inside the car to be sentenced to prison. He received 50 years, but it was cut in half to 25 in 2008 after it was determined the shooting was not street-gang related, the newspaper reports.
“It was his (cousin’s) car and he was driving, but I know that my son did not kill that person,” the Caseys’ mother, Collette Burns, told the newspaper. “My son is in jail because he took a rap for someone else’s crime that he didn’t do. My son has had his name slandered and his career destroyed because nobody would step up in that car and tell what really happened.”
Jurrell Casey said he had to step up in his family. His mother told The Tennessean, “(Jurray) would talk to him or write him, and he was really the one who influenced him to stay focused. He’d tell him, ‘You have to keep doing what Mom wants you do to, and keep doing what you’re supposed to do. Take the talent you have and run with it.'”
Jurrell Casey told the newspaper he calls his brother a couple times a week and visits during the off season.
“I just try to keep his head strong, try to stay there mentally with him. The way you help people like that is that you have to let them see that you’re still supporting them, that you haven’t forgotten them. That’s the main reason I try to go out there, to let him know that you’ve still got your loved ones here with you,” Casey told the newspaper. “He kept me off the streets, he wouldn’t allow me to go out with him and he wouldn’t allow me to hang out with a certain crowd. There were a lot of (older) brothers that were more like, ‘Come on, let’s go,’ with their brothers. I would have been right there with him. But he wasn’t like that. I thank him for that every day.”
5. Casey & His Wife Started ‘The Casey Fund’ to Help Inmates Re-Entering Society, Halfway Houses & Inner-City Youth & Mentoring Programs
Jurrell Casey and his wife, Ryann Gray Casey, started The Casey Fund, a charity that they hope will help inmates who are readjusting to society and also help inner-city youth who are at risk of getting involved in crime. They have given money to Project Return, which is designed to help prisoners return to society.
“As a couple, we want to influence people from different standpoints,. I think it’s really cool to see an African-American couple that is hitting on accomplishments like these,” Ryann Gray Casey told The Tennessean. “Whether you’re talking from a socio-economic standpoint or a racial standpoint or anything, to see two people accomplishing things and still making our relationship a priority — showing you can handle both — hopefully will help inspire some people.”
She added, “The football life doesn’t last forever, so the kinds of impressions Jurrell can make now and the money he’s making now aren’t going to last forever. So I think making a mark now is really important for us.” Her husband echoed those thoughts, telling the newspaper, “We believe we’re in a position of being wealthy and being able to go out there and do great things. Why go and sit on a gold mine when you can actually give back to the community and the people in need?”
Jurrell Casey told the newspaper his brother being incarcerated influenced his interest in helping prisoners return to society, realizing his brother will be in that position one day. “Project Return tries to introduce (inmates) to the right things while they’re still in there. And we’ll also have different things to set you up with — it’s jobs, it’s home security, it’s helping you out if you have a large amount of child support, keeping you from your old neighborhood,” Casey said.
Casey told WKRN-TV they also want to “stop the school to prison pipeline.” He told NFL.com, “I wish I would have had a lot more people come back in my area and be able to help out and give us the learning tools that I’m trying to be able to give back to the youth these days. To be able to show people that I’m here and I’m trying to make sure we make a better world for them, that’s everything that makes me happy. That’s why I love giving back. Not too many things really get me down, but putting a smile on other people’s faces, that’s what really gets me going every day.”