Look At These White Football Coaches Believing Black Lives Matter, Is That Even Legal?
After the shooting of Jacob Blake, Black athletes have refused to “shut up and dribble" or whatever's appropriate for their genre of sportsball. It's been impressive to see how passionately they've spoken out in the past week, but it's also been nice to see their coaches — generally older, white men —joining them. Even if they haven't shared the life experience of their players, they are willing to listen, sympathize, and in some cases literally walk a mile in their shoes.
Monday, hundreds of University of Alabama athletes marched on the Tuscaloosa campus to protest racial injustice, and head football coach Nick Saban led the way. No, really ... there's video and everything.
Powerful image as Nick Saban leads the Alabama football team on a march for social justice. #RollTide https://t.co/GERQphxai0— Simone Eli (@Simone Eli)1598907953.0
Players carried signs and wore shirts stating “Black Lives Matter" and “Defend Black Lives." They marched from the Mal Moore Athletics Facility to Foster Auditorium. There's both history and hope in that destination. In June 1963, when Donald Trump was almost as old as Kyle Rittenhouse, Governor George Wallace stood in the Foster building's doorway to physically block entry by the school's first Black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood.
President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order federalizing the national guard, and Henry Vance Adams, who actually defended Black civil rights activists, ordered Wallace to step aside. Governor Grouchy Racist Pants relented but also gave a long, tedious address wrapping his bigotry in the flag and Constitution. Several speakers at the Republican National Convention performed their own cover versions of his speech, with only slightly updated arrangements.
Najee Harris, a senior running back who organized the event on social media, gave his own, far superior remarks on the Foster Auditorium steps.
HARRIS: We walk to this schoolhouse door intentionally because while much has changed the last 57 years, too many things have not. So in this moment, we as student-athletes need to play our part in bringing out positive change. We need change in our system of law enforcement. We need change in our community. We need change in our hearts. [...]
This is not a problem that will simply come and go in a news cycle. It is not a problem that will simply dissipate without action. Being here today is a huge step, but I ask you, what's next?
Saban described himself as a “proud parent" who was “proud of the messages" the athletes delivered. Saban was born in West Virginia. He's coached the Crimson Tide since 2007 and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. He has more Deep South credentials than Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, who sold out the the players on the Atlanta Dream — which she co-owns — for her political ambitions. It's a little difficult for Loeffler to declare Nick Saban a “Marxist" and part of the “woke mob." We don't even know if he'll vote for Joe Biden. But we know that he'll stand on the side of his players.
Saturday, Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll also stood with his players. The team had decided to cancel practice, and during a Zoom press conference, Carroll said, "I want to talk to you guys about some stuff that's on my heart." He spoke for almost 15 minutes.
From the Seattle Times:
CARROLL: Black people know the truth ... They know exactly what's going on. It's white people that don't know. And it's not that they're not telling us. They've been telling us the stories, and we know what's right and what's wrong. We just have not been open to listen to it. [ ... ]
This is about racism in America that white people don't know. They don't know enough. And they need to be coached up and they need to be educated about what the heck is going on in this world. Black people can't scream anymore. They can't march anymore, or they can't bare their souls anymore to what they've lived with for hundreds of years because white guys came over from Europe and started a new country with a great idea and great ideals and wrote down great, great, great writings and laws and all of that about democracy and freedom and equality for all.
Carroll admitted that Black players on his team are “living scared to death," despite what people like Jared Kushner might consider their oh-so-privileged status. Safety Jamal Adams shared the story of a college recruiting visit when a cop pulled a gun on him and others who were barely more than children.
"I'll never forget when the guy put us on the ground and found out who we were and said, 'This is how we treat our players. You don't want to come here,' " Adams said. [...]
"I'm afraid," Adams said Sunday. "I fear for my life as a Black man, and I shouldn't fear for my life. … When I take off my Seahawks gear, I'm just another Black guy in the community, another Black guy in the street."
It's admirable that Saban and Carroll didn't try to minimize Black people's pain but instead enabled a forum for them to express it and demand real change.
Big thank you to Coach Pete, John Schneider & the entire Seahawks organization for really hearing us as Black athle… https://t.co/UhaDXnzOTQ— Jamal Adams (@Jamal Adams)1598733225.0
The Seahawks team also spent Saturday on what should terrify all conservatives: They registered to vote. That's a powerful form of protest in itself, and in 60 days, Black people from all backgrounds will defiantly and boldly march to the polls.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."