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Athletics Officials Call for Change Amid Unrest

Jason Scott

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd in police custody and the ensuing unrest, collegiate athletics officials are calling for action in a variety of ways.

NCAA president Mark Emmert on Sunday released a statement pointing out the “continued existence of inequality and injustice in America.” He called for NCAA member institutions to “commit ourselves individually and collectively to examining what we can do to make our society more just and equal.”

Since that statement, several prominent athletics officials have come out with their own statements and calls to action. 

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, after Buckeyes men’s basketball player Seth Towns was detained following a Friday evening protest, told the website Eleven Warriors that he supports players’ rights to protest.

“All of our student-athletes have the right to express themselves,” Smith told Eleven Warriors on Monday. “They’re our future, and I think this is an educational moment. They have the ability to do what other generations haven’t done. And so them seeing this, watching this and paying attention to this and then having the conversations with their teammates and coaches and athletic support staff and parents, hopefully will open their eyes to the fact that you know what, we have a responsibility to change this. So when they’re in the locker room or we’re in a group situation somewhere, if someone shows that racist tendencies or racist behaviors, they’re strong enough to step up.”

Meanwhile, Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork urged fans to sign a Change.org petition and pledge to educate themselves and engage others on race-related issues.

The petition, titled “Unify Aggies to Create Change,” urges signatories to:

  1. Educate yourself on the history of our country, injustices and current events.
  2. Engage in healthy dialogue in your community to learn about and empathize with others.
  3. Help Aggie Athletics provide opportunities of growth and learning for our student-athletes, coaches and staff.

“Our vision is that these three simple actions will begin to help bridge the racial and equality gap that has existed in our country for far too long, while reinforcing that each and every one of us has been created equal and should be treated with honor, dignity, and respect,” the petition text reads. 

Coaches and athletics officials spanning the country released their own statements of support for racial justice via social media in recent days.

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