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College Football Teams Pause Practice to Talk Justice

Jason Scott

In the sports world, trends first identified in the professional realm often trickle down to the collegiate level. This week proved that social action at the pro level can find its way to the collegiate ranks, as well.

After a string of professional athletes opting not to participate in scheduled practices or games this week as a way to protest continued racial injustice, some college teams followed suit. What began with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks refusing to take the court for a playoff matchup against the Orlando Magic quickly spread throughout the NBA, reaching other professional sports leagues such as the WNBA, MLB, MLS, NHL, NFL and ultimately even college football.

On Thursday, Boston College and the University of South Florida became the first college football teams not to participate in preseason workouts, according to ESPN. The football teams at Baylor, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Western Kentucky all participated in some kind of protest on Thursday, either refusing to take the practice field entirely or staging a walkout. 

In lieu of practice, some teams held discussions between players and coaches on the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. At Baylor, that discussion led to a brief march through the Waco, Texas, campus ending in a group prayer. At Mississippi State, team members went to Unity Park in downtown Starkville, Miss., which honors significant figures from the Civil Rights Movement.

Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, whose voice was prominent in convincing state legislators to finally remove the confederate emblem from the Mississippi State flag, took to Twitter to share a statement of unity from his team.

In a statement released on Thursday, NCAA president Mark Emmert voiced support for peaceful protests.

“The events in Kenosha once again lay bare a tragic outcome resulting from police interaction with a person of color,” Emmert said. “It has also once again brought to the forefront the issues of race, social justice and social responsibility that we all need to commit to. Peaceful protest is a powerful tool to drive social change and we fully support student-athletes’ rights to be heard. Action also drives change and we urge all student-athletes to exercise their right and responsibility to vote this November 3 to build a better and more inclusive America.”

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