When Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality in the 2016 football season, his actions were quickly met with calls to keep politics out of sports.
While fans urged athletes to remain silent about political issues just four years ago, it looks like times are changing.
Since the fatal arrest of former Texas A&M-Kingsville student George Floyd and the protests that have followed, the sports community has spoken out about the issue, and A&M athletes and coaches have made it clear that they aren’t going to sit out on this discussion.
A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher released the following statement on Saturday:
“My heart, and the hearts and souls of the young men who belong to our program, have been broken by the senseless violence we’ve all witnessed. It is unimaginable and unacceptable that racism still plays a large role in our society in the year 2020. We are all different and have all been shaped by our own diverse experiences. My life has been shaped by the many young men of all different races and religions that I have had the honor of coaching. Without them and our support staff, I wouldn’t have realized my dreams and achieved my successes as a coach. I stand with them and pray that we can be part of a better society for everyone. I am in the privileged position to impact the many young men that run out of the tunnel with me on Saturdays. The weight of this responsibility is something I consider every day.
“While I can’t pretend to comprehend the pain felt by the black community, I want to do my part to bring about the change we are all desperately seeking. This starts with an open and honest dialogue where everyone can be heard and their feelings supported. When adversity challenges us, our greatest triumph as a team comes from standing together, as a family, a family of all races and backgrounds. We can’t afford to sit this one out!”
Statement from Head Coach Jimbo Fisher: pic.twitter.com/5Uq5yvOWPl— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) May 30, 2020
Fisher wasn’t the only A&M football team member to take a stand on the issue. Former players have also joined in. Ryan Tannehill, who played wide receiver and quarterback for the Aggies from 2007 to 2012, shared a message of support on Twitter.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe and protected in their communities,” Tannehill wrote. “It’s on us to use our voices and actions to make that happen. What happened is completely unacceptable.”
Everyone deserves to feel safe & protected in their communities...it’s on us to use our voices and actions to make that happen.What happened is completely unacceptable.#JusticeForFloyd pic.twitter.com/XqAUYRBY1V— Ryan Tannehill (@ryantannehill1) May 27, 2020
Former Aggie cornerbacks coach and current Dallas Cowboys defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist shared his perspective on Twitter.
“I am the father of a little black boy,” Linguist wrote. “Last night, I held my son a little closer and hugged him a little longer. I cannot imagine him being taken away from me the way that I saw George Floyd and many others senselessly lose their lives.”
A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork retweeted his Memorial Day message on May 30 with a new addition about freedom from fear for all.
“I sent this out Monday-a day to cherish freedom & remembrance,” Bjork wrote. “It’s tragic & sad to wake up & see this happening across our country. Our people, regardless of race/background, should not have to live in fear. We can all choose to lead & be part of the solution. That’s my pledge.”
I sent this out Monday-a day to cherish freedom & remembrance. It’s tragic & sad to wake up & see this happening across our country. Our people, regardless of race/background, should not have to live in fear. We can all choose to lead & be part of the solution. That’s my pledge👊 https://t.co/xadUxqbQ5k— Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) May 30, 2020
In a reply to that tweet, the Texas A&M women’s basketball account shared the team’s sentiments about the recent deaths.
“The tragedies inflicted upon our black communities is truly heartbreaking,” the post said. “We pledge to be a part of that change. We see you, we hear you, and we love you.”
Former A&M women’s basketball center Khaalia Hillsman replied to the team’s tweet with a message of pride for her school.
“There’s my alma,” Hillman’s tweet said. “Shouldn’t have to thank you for speaking up but...it’s just the reality of the situation.”
A&M women's basketball coach Gary Blair released a statement of his own on Monday.
"Almost fifty years ago, I had the opportunity to teach and coach basketball at Dallas South Oak Cliff, an all-black high school in the heart of the city," Blair said. "The school gave me a chance to start my career, and the people of South Oak Cliff took me in and made me feel like family. I owe everything to the city, the school and the incredible community for teaching me what mutual respect is all about. I did not see color in my student-athletes and in my students—I only saw tremendous young men and women full of potential. I did see color in these young men in other ways, however, and in doing so, I learned to value and appreciate that we all bring different perspectives and experiences into each other’s lives. We are a stronger society when we listen and learn from each other.
"My heart breaks for the young women in our program and our coaches who are angry, confused and saddened by incidents of the past few weeks, and now, the death of George Floyd. Unfortunately, for many of them and their families, this is not the first time that they must ask, why? We all should be asking why, regardless of our race or ethnicity. I may never fully understand what it means to be black in America, but I certainly know injustice when I see it. It is incumbent upon all of us to do our part to reach a greater understanding, a stronger mutual respect and a more just path forward. With our young generation stepping up and raising their voices, I am hopeful that future generations will never know the pain of racism.
I am here, WE are here, for our student-athletes, their families and Former Students as well, and will always be.”
I’ve sat down the past several days trying to find the words to express how I feel but it hasn’t been easy. pic.twitter.com/S8iCp4pKb7— Gary Blair (@CoachGaryBlair) June 1, 2020
A&M men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams also released a statement of his own on Sunday.
“I am sad and heartbroken at all of the racial inequality and inequality that has transpired this week, yet again in our country,” Williams’ Twitter post read. “The social injustice has continued for far too long, and much too frequently. I feel so much anger, that I struggle articulating my thoughts and emotions. But in truth, cannot imagine the depth of true sorrow and pain involved because I am not African American, and have never experienced it first hand.
“I cannot pretend to have all the answers, but am convicted now more than ever, that I must find more ways to help and support all of our players, the families represented in our program, and in our community. I am compelled to be part of the solution that helps end the cycle of these inhumane acts. I want to make sure that our program is an agent of change in the ongoing fight against racism.
“Speaking out and posting on social media is important and has value but the change must come from more than words. It is the responsibility of all of us to work daily to demonstrate change for this generation and the next. I am praying for all of those that have been impacted in so many ways by these tragedies…”
A&M Athletics posted a message on Twitter from Athletics Director of Counseling and Sport Psychology Ryan Pittsinger encouraging student-athletes to contact the staff if they need to discuss their experiences confidentially.
We stand together. pic.twitter.com/kUWhoSwloC— Texas A&M Athletics (@12thMan) May 31, 2020