By: Morgan Jenkins
Over the past few months, America has once again seen itself in the midst of multiple deaths of unarmed African American men and women by policemen. These social injustice situations have called for more than just the Black Lives Matter movement to fight for justice in this country. People all over the world are now using their voices to be heard for such a serious cause.
In the sports world, fans have seen and heard athletes express their stance on Black Lives Matter. Professional athletes have the freedom to share how they feel without great fear of losing their jobs. But for collegiate athletes; it has been a different ball game.
Bad call, Coach.
Along with their athletes, many programs have released statements voicing their solidarity with African American athletes and the community. On June 2, 2020, two-time national champion Clemson Tigers released an audio clip of head coach Dabo Swinney sharing his grief for George Floyd’s family and this country stating that “we have all witnessed acts of evil in this country”. That is, until one former player: Kayon Tuttle took to twitter to expose the harsh truth about events that had occurred in the program; sharing that coach Swinney had allowed another coach to call players the n-word. The tweet went viral and the Clemson Tigers program was immediately under fire.
Sadly, this one tweet struck a nerve in many other African American players on numerous football teams. Twitter then became a confessional, where players shared the harsh reality they had experienced with racism in their athletic programs.
What do the stats say, Coach?
According to www.ncsasports.org, there are a total of 893 college football teams. This includes Division I, II, III, NAIA, and NJCAA. The NCAA Demographics Database reported that in the 2019 college football season 39% of college football players were black. That 39% comes to a total of 28,795 players. In the same database for the 2019 season, we see that 85% of head football coaches were white males. That 85% comes to a total of 574 coaches. This means, that more than half (64.2%) of the college football teams in America are run by white males. That is far too many coaches to not speak up for their players. That is far too many coaches to not listen to how their players are feeling during these times. That is far too many coaches to not realize their players are hurting. These men are more than just athletes, they are human.
We can’t just leave it on the field, Coach.
We have seen the efforts of quite a few coaches who are wanting to listen to their African American players. Those efforts do not go unnoticed; however, coaches do not get a pat on the back just for being sympathetic. There are hard conversations that probably need to be had. There are some frustrations and fears that these athletes need to let out. So we challenge you, coach, to help your players heal during this time. To not just stand in solidarity with these players, but to also give them the same amount of respect they give you. Your actions mean everything during times like these. This work starts off the field.
So let’s hear it…Coach.