We are in an unprecedented time in American history. A concurrent pandemic and civil rights movement borne of the demands of justice for George Floyd, which has overtaken the country and evolved to further stand for Black Lives and eliminating police violence and racial injustice. In scale and presence this is possibly the largest civil rights movement in history. 50 states, 18 countries, and vast numbers of diverse crowds coming out to stand for fairness.
At Off Tackle Empire, we waited and listened and decided that we would use our platform to showcase the ways in which our Big Ten schools and athletic departments are supporting Black Lives and also amplify the voices of just some of our teams’ black athletes, alumni, and coaches. We support black lives, not because of the many black athletes and coaches on our teams, but because they just matter. Period.
No longer are we in an era where a head coach who is a moral leader for so many black student-athletes as well as community leaders, influencers, and role models can sit back and stay silent. Our universities where countless black students are educated cannot stay silent in the face of reality, Silence, in such an elevated role, is complicity. We are happy that all fourteen of our Big Ten programs in some way have taken a moral stand to support the black members of their communities and beyond. Some... better than others, but we have taken this post to share and describe some of these statements, Tweets, and more below. These instances are just a fraction of the loud and beautiful chorus of utterances, thoughts, and emotion that have been conveyed. We encourage you to find and share even more voices of support for Black Lives in the Big Ten community.
The Big Ten Conference
It is important to see what the conference itself is doing, given the immense profit it generates off of the activities of countless black student-athletes.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren has announced on Jun 1st that the conference would be creating the the Big Ten Conference Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition. The intent is for the coalition to be comprised of Big Ten student-athletes, coaches, and other members of our Big Ten family. Linked here is his open letter, which you can also read in the Tweet below.
An open letter from Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren pic.twitter.com/Rw90xdMcx5— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) June 1, 2020
Here are other responses from selected athletes and coaches at the fourteen Big Ten schools:
Minnesota is special. I can’t put my finger on it but it just is. It’s home. This week has been so hard. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Floyd family. Absolutely sickening. Let’s pull together MINNESOTA and show just how special we truly are. #RIPGeorgeFloyd— Richard Pitino (@CoachPitinoMN) May 30, 2020
Rutgers has launched a campaign called #Chop4Change with this powerful video.
Junior linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi working with other Rutgers Football teammates for positivity in this not so positive time:
We are BLACK MEN!!..We build!...We protect!..We don't tear down other BLACK MEN! We have felt the pain of being torn down and we have decided we will be deliberate about building others! With all of the negativity going around, let's do something positive!✊ ✊ ✊ #blacklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/5McbCjXhz1— Olakunle Fatukasi (@o_threee) June 2, 2020
Sophomore linebacker with the echoing of a simple, but poignant and important concept for the problematic, “I don’t see color” stance:
“If you don’t see color, then you don’t see me.” https://t.co/QnNk9CsrRK— C.J. Onyechi (@jaycruiser23) June 3, 2020
Finally, Athletic Director Pat Hobbs with a stellar and honest statement:
Juwan Howard’s official comment:
Fellow Fab Fiver Jalen Rose also weighed in.
And head coach Jim Harbaugh rocking his famous khakis and a Michigan mask at a protest:
Jim Harbaugh, sporting a maize and blue mask, took part in an anti-police brutality march in Ann Arbor this morning.— Aaron McMann (@AaronMcMann) June 2, 2020
(Story by @samgododge/ photo by @jenna_kieser) https://t.co/EA8GylePqv pic.twitter.com/PED0zerfn9
Silence at a time like this is unacceptable, and complicit, especially from those who are privileged. Racism cannot be ignored. We can be better. We MUST be better.— Pat Fitzgerald (@coachfitz51) May 29, 2020
We ALL have a responsibility if we’re going to fight systems of oppression.
Listen, love, respect, act.
The official Northwestern football account also retweeted alumnus and Minnesota Viking Ifeadi Odenigbo, who marched with protesters in Chicago:
...prompting the most direct dismissal of a Karen that I’ve ever seen from a football program:
Hi, you appear to be conflating the peaceful protest you see in the photo with looting. We aren't. Go 'Cats.— Northwestern Football (@NUFBFamily) June 1, 2020
One other alumnus is the eloquent and powerful San Diego Chargers RB Justin Jackson the Ball Carrier:
Police brutality going unpunished for decades can be accurately described as state sanctioned violence. This is only a revelation if you haven’t been paying attention. I stand with the oppressed. #BLM #Solidarity https://t.co/v4XpY2oySB— Justin Jackson (@J_ManPrime21) May 31, 2020
Most importantly, one person who hasn’t commented publicly but has RT’d a few experiences and is from Minneapolis is current WR Ramaud Chiaohkiao-Bowman.
Fitz referenced him in his interview with AM 670 this morning, and this week RCB retweeted the experience of NU basketball player Anthony Gaines:
You can also read the powerful statement from AD Jim Phillips here.
George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, and all four officers complicit in his death deserve to be brought to justice. I stand with the community and behind its leaders and, having benefited from it all my life, vow to be better in naming racism and white supremacy when I see it. Say his name, and say the names of Breonna Taylor, Iyonna Dior, and so many others who are victims of a system from which I have benefitted more than I will ever know or appreciate.
Thank you to all who continue to lead this movement. Black Lives Matter.
Wisconsin coaches Paul Chryst and Greg Gard voiced their frustration with society and call to action for change:
Thump: Lovie Smith has of course said exactly what you’d expect, which is nothing. Frankly, I don’t know who would listen to him anyway now that he’s done away with facial hair that would embarrass Cornel West.
Shout out to all my non-black friends that have called/texted to check up on me. Y’all the real MVPs ✊— Josh Imatorbhebhe (@JoshBhebhe) June 1, 2020
Illini AD Josh Whitman’s statement can be found here:
It was impossible for me to become an agent of change until I acknowledged that I do not, and cannot, know what it feels like to be a person of color living in these United States. I know now that my daughter and son, who look at me with curious, seeking eyes, have a better chance at a successful life because of their skin color. That is the truth, and it is a truth that I cannot accept. The solution is not to push my children down; it is to teach them to be better than their parents so they can lift others up. Systemic racism exists in our country. Until enough of the people who developed and are responsible for maintaining that system admit that, achieving change will be virtually impossible.
The protests are amazing and Inspiring. But please in 2 or 3 weeks when the protest are no longer happening. We still need change, we need to come together as a community and we need action! Racism and injustice can not exist!— Saquon Barkley (@saquon) June 3, 2020
Current player CJ Thorpe calls, not for violence, but “for this, coming together and using the power of the people”. I highly encourage watching this video.
James Franklin called us to embrace our differences in a written statement.
University President Eric Barron encourages speaking out on injustices.
Finally, George Floyd wore #5 for the USF Bulls basketball team. Penn State baseball will retire #5 for next season in remembrance.
Ohio State released this video with many players also sharing it to their social media:
Head coach Ryan Day with the simple, but meaningful quote:
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”— Ryan Day (@ryandaytime) May 29, 2020
Athletic Director Gene Smith:
Some thoughts about the events that transpired this week: pic.twitter.com/axE3rwsfPz— gene smith (@OSU_AD) May 29, 2020
Ohio State running back Master Teague III asking for positivity in the face of adversity:
Let's respond to injustice, but it's how we respond that makes the difference. pic.twitter.com/N1tUyFsb0r— Master W. Teague III (@MasterTeagueIII) May 30, 2020
New head coach Mel Tucker invokes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his call for change:
Head basketball coach Tom Izzo, noted anti-Twitter presence, also offered his thoughts in this public statement.
Boilermakers HC Jeff Brohm deferred to and expressed support for his RB coach Chris Barclay:
We value you Coach Barclay, and we stand with you and all those who are committed to social justice and equality. It is time for change!! https://t.co/rrQWuex5He— Jeff Brohm (@JeffBrohm) May 30, 2020
Boilermaker basketball HC Matt Painter:
And DL Lorenzo Neal:
Not an emotional guy, but the George Floyd video made me cry man. I’m sick and tired of us being killed in the street like animals every week.— Lorenzo Neal (@loneal40) May 26, 2020
My heart is broken by what is going on in our country. Racial injustice is wrong and it MUST be addressed!! I Believe we are to LOVE EACH OTHER! No matter one’s skin color. Love is a choice. Our prayers are with George Floyd’s family. John 15:12 #LEO— Coach Tom Allen (@CoachAllenIU) May 29, 2020
People are so scared to STAND UP for what’s RIGHT because they’re too busy worried about their image and how others view/perceive them. How can you just sit back and watch people be brutal hurt or even killed? But your image is more important I AM SO SICK! #BlackLivesMatter ✊— Whop Philyor™ (@SuperstarWhop) June 1, 2020
Kirk Ferentz offered his support for members of the team:
Coach Ferentz addressed the players and staff last night during a virtual team meeting to discuss George Floyd and the longstanding racial and social tensions in America: pic.twitter.com/ED1RaQTG1m— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) June 2, 2020
Ferentz also stated that he would support the players if they choose to kneel for the anthem next year, so long as they do it together as a team.
Men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery:
A statement from Fran McCaffery: pic.twitter.com/qO3ZqgNXQ4— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) June 1, 2020
Fran’s son Connor McCaffery also had some thoughts:
Educate yourself. Be an example. Reach out to others. Do something. Help someone. Be a leader. pic.twitter.com/H1Z5dgbR6D— Connor McCaffery (@connor_m30) June 2, 2020
Iowa runningback Tyler Goodson’s mother shared this post from his Instagram:
My son @tgood1110 posted this to his Instagram story! No additional caption needed. #protests #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #JusticeforAhmaudArbery #icantbreathe #DontShoot #BlackInAmerica #blackboymom #PeaceAndLove #peaceonearth #blackandproud #balcklivesmatter pic.twitter.com/iTYkVs6yjA— Felicia Goodson (@favored3470) May 30, 2020
Incoming QB Deuce Hogan showed leadership by reaching out to the other members of his recruiting class:
Host of the Washed Up Walkons podcast Tyler Kluver has faith in the leadership shown by the coaches during his time on the football team:
“The character and track record of Coach Ferentz, Coach Doyle, and the rest of the staff within Iowa football are huge reasons why I chose the Hawkeyes in the first place. I truly believe, and observed during my time, that the culture inside the Hawkeye facility is one of the most inclusive and fair in the nation. Recent events deserve the attention and action of our nations leaders and those involved with Iowa Football definitely fall in that category.
I have no doubt that the staff and players at Iowa will listen, learn, and move forward in a way that shows they are together as one and in a way that makes people of all races, religions, and cultures proud. Our staff was always cutting edge making sure we were going about every aspect of our life in the best way possible and I don’t this situation will be any different. I’m proud to be a Hawkeye more than ever and commend the football program for everything they’ve done and continue to do.”
And finally, defensive line coach Kelvin Bell kept it concise and let Dr. King do the talking:
If you’d like to see more statements from current and former Hawkeyes, Rob Howe at Hawkeye Nation put together a pretty comprehensive list.
Husker women’s basketball coach Amy Williams offered a highly personal reflection:
Nebraska Volleyball coach John Cook offered this statement:
Husker football coach Scott Frost went the prayer route, and also RT’ed Tony Dungy.
On May 30th, Husker basketball coach offered this statement on the events in Minneapolis:
Many athletes and former athletes have chimed in as well. Former Husker DB Josh Mitchell called out the Nebraska athletic department for their near-silence:
. @HuskerFBNation y’all are not off the hook either. the athletic department has been extremely quiet & I know what the inside of those walls look like. Stand up for your students & athletes! Stand up for your coaching staffs! Stand up for your employees!— Josh Mitchell (@J_Mitch05) June 1, 2020
To date, @HuskerFBNation has only addressed the protests by retweeting Scott Frost and posting a black square for Blackout Tuesday.
Terrapin head coach Mike Locksley devotes his platform to be part of the solution:
Basketball coach Mark Turgeon calls for a unified effort to put an end to injustice and racism:
We must stand together and unite now more than ever. pic.twitter.com/H4yPzeQ1Kv— Mark Turgeon (@CoachTurgeon) June 1, 2020
Again, we realize this list is not comprehensive; we welcome you to share other players’ responses—and your own—in the comments. Please remain respectful.
Black Lives Matter.