An Open Letter: Silence Is No Longer Golden for College Football Coaches
Dear College Football Coaches,
Before I begin, I have a quick question. Do you care about the Black student-athletes that allow you to make millions of dollars? If the answer is yes, now is the time to stand up for them. Don’t balk at it, don’t be afraid, stand up, be honest, and please don’t patronize us with vague statements of tolerance and inclusivity and not seeing color.
Also, please don’t quote the first Martin Luther King, Jr. quote you see on Google and don’t say it’s not your place, because these are the same student-athletes that are in the trenches with you. If you don’t feel comfortable, reach out to your fellow Black coaches or faculty at the University that could assist you with where to begin.
As a 33-year old Black man, I struggle daily with everything that is unfolding in front of our eyes. I know that young adults ages 18-23 are facing unique difficulties currently. It may not seem like much but ask them if they are okay. I know, they may seem like they know it all, but try to talk to them individually. You’d be surprised how much both of you can learn by having a good old-fashioned sit-down.
I know this is well out of your comfort zone, but during tough times, they need to know that you are an ally for them in a world that constantly shows them that they mean close to nothing.
I know some people think that all you care about is cashing big checks and winning games, but you and I know that you are responsible for leading these young adults as they become successful young men. And yes, it’s great to win bowl games and to say that you helped put a plethora of student-athletes into the NFL, but you are needed in a way that goes way beyond football.
So, whether you like it or not, you must do more at this juncture.
This is a teaching moment to display your leadership qualities. Your players look to you for guidance in on-the-field and off-the-field matters. While Black and Brown players are looking to you for your stance on racial injustice, your White players may also be learning from your leadership or lack thereof.
What you say holds weight for them. Those young men hold your words close to them, and because of that fact alone, you have the platform to ignite change in all of our lives. Think about it. If you can make a change in college football–the single sport that brings our worlds together–then it can change those very same worlds.
Let’s be honest, there are a lot of people who would rather listen to Nick Saban speak rather than Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey.
The world is crying for help, specifically– Black people.
I don’t have to tell that in the last three months Ahmaud Abery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were murdered by violent racists and members of law enforcement. As a result of those horrific murders, riots, looting, and peaceful protests have been at the forefront in every major city across the United States.
Can you imagine seeing someone that’s supposed to protect and serve you, murder someone that has the same skin color as you? Can you imagine the trauma that comes along with that? I know some of you can’t relate to that but just imagine for a moment, if you could.
While in handcuffs, George Floyd was pinned to the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. During that time, he pleaded for his life, and even at one point called out for his deceased mother. But this isn’t new; I know that and you know that.
Four years ago, Colin Kaepernick led a peaceful protest against police brutality, and he lost his job because of it.
Although the protest was peaceful and the message was clear, some of your colleagues denounced and even scoffed at Kaepernick’s message. Some claimed that we don’t have a race problem. Others called on those who sided with Kaepernick to leave the country.
Currently, the United States is erupting and spilling into the streets in support of the Black community. As States continue to band together in solidarity against police brutality, you need to be the leader your players need you to be. You need to join them and people who look like them and maybe look like you on the front lines. Actions are better than words, especially since some of the words you all offered were bland, tone-deaf, and lazy– at best.
Racial injustice is nothing new. People of all races are tired of it. Yes, some people are set in their ways and they won’t change, but if the majority changes, it creates a better chance for hope.
I know some of you have been to the protests, and as I mentioned before, I salute you for that. At the protests, there are people from different backgrounds fighting for equality for African Americans. It is a beautiful sight to see despite the unfortunate circumstances and your players, fans, coaches, families of coaches, alumni, students, trustees, maybe the President of your Univerisity, hell even the President of the United States might find in your leadership the catalyst they need to be the change for their teams and players
You all are a part of the best sport in the world. This is a sport that brings many people from different cultural backgrounds together. Many of your rosters are filled with black players. Every Saturday, coaches, fans, boosters, trustees are rooting for Black males to make interceptions, touchdowns, and bone-crushing tackles.
That same energy needs to be applied when dealing with racial injustice.
I know you remember going into their homes promising their parents that you will shape their teenagers into men. Just keep in mind that their parents and family members back home are trusting you with their son. In a world that’s unkind to Black men, they need you to be there for them like I’m sure you promised that you would.
I’d like to thank LSU’s Ed Orgeron, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Oregon’s Mario Cristobal, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, and a host of others. We see you! We appreciate you, and I’m certain your players appreciate you. You guys have been trailblazers in a sense and you are using your position of power to take a stand.
We have a long way to go in this fight. As time evolves, the protests will lessen, and people will resume business as usual. While that may be the case, don’t forget about your Black players that need you every step of the way.
In the movie theatres, silence is golden, but this is College Football, we don’t do silence in College Football. In a sport where noise is the cornerstone, your voice needs to be louder than the thousands of fans that pack your stadium. Within all of the noise, you are the voice, your players need to hear– just as if it was on a Saturday afternoon.
In the end, it’s your call coach(es), just make sure it’s the right one.