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The profession that sells leadership and resistance as if it were a TED conversation went silent on Friday.
The profession that relies on the talent of young African Americans to keep millions of dollars flowing into luxury athletic budgets and bloated salaries has been approved in the national conversation about racism, police brutality and unequal treatment under the law.
The profession that continues to become a man and make things difficult has decided to put that aside.
On a day when athletes from various sports were demonstrating, only a few college football coaches faced this painful moment.
The assassination of George Floyd and the subsequent protests that took us – again – to this miserable place as a country is apparently too hot for most coaches. The pressure to take a public position on how we need to change as a society, as a culture, has been left to young people, many of whom are in mourning and fear. The guys making millions of dollars? They were sending mostly tweets about recruiting, as if the whole concept of George Floyd was not something that came home right now with all the black players they recruited and promised to fight for.
Where's their fight now? Where's the truth? It certainly wasn't on social media, where almost no coach even acknowledged that something was desperately wrong in America.
Give credit to Mario Cristobal, from Oregon, who tweeted at the end of Friday after meeting with his leadership council: "We are responsible for using voices to change. We are responsible for protecting those who do not feel safe. or are afraid to share their perspective. We are responsible for creating a new normal ".
I learned a lot by listening to our Leadership Council today. pic.twitter.com/soLEtIPQXF
– Mario Cristobal (@coach_cristobal) May 29, 2020
At first, Tom Allen of Indiana and Geoff Collins of Georgia Tech were the only coaches on the Power Five who recognized reality. In a radio interview with Rich Eisen, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan said he was "completely outrageous" and expected charges against all four officers involved in the murder. Walt Bell, the coach of UMass, recorded a grim four-minute video, acknowledging the shame of "having to ask my God to bring my 50 minority student-athletes back to me safely" because of the danger they face only for being black.
Besides that? The public face of college football coaches, defending the players they represent, was buried in the fear of reaction and the comfort of wealth. Even P.J. Fleck of Minnesota, who will put his name and hashtag on anything that helps his brand, chose not to talk about a national tragedy in his own backyard.
The emptiness of this inaction, and the total predictability of it, in a way help to illustrate why the United States is struggling to get out of this cycle.
What we usually find is that true leaders are willing to be ordered to shut up and play, because their words are too close to the bone.
It is the Missouri football team that boycotted in 2015 after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, activating campus activism around correcting racial injustice and inequality. It was Mississippi state players who called on their coach, Mike Leach, for tweeting a social media meme involving a tie that was not intended to be racist, but that was highly inappropriate for a coach in a state where the ties resemble Jim's horror. Crow. And white players, like former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow or Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, who said it better than any of us could.
"I am on the side of my brothers who deal and deal continually with things I will never experience. The injustice is clear. And so does hatred. It can no longer be explained. If you are still" explaining ", check your heart and ask why, "said Lawrence.
I am on the side of my brothers who deal and deal continually with things I will never experience. The injustice is clear … and so is the hate. It can no longer be explained. If you are still "explaining", check your heart and ask why.
– Trevor Lawrence (@Trevorlawrencee) May 29, 2020
The black community needs our help. They have been unpublished for a long time. Open your ears, listen and speak. This is not politics. That is human rights.
– Joey Burrow (@ Joe_Burrow10) May 29, 2020
JOE BURROW: & # 39; The black community needs our help & # 39;
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There is little doubt that college coaches across the country today, whether white or black, understand and recognize the damage their players are facing. Deep down, they know it could be any of your guys who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong cop. They already have enough black families to understand the systemic inequality in this country and the racism that their own players deal with all the time, whether on campus or online.
Where's the anger? Where's the action plan? Many will say that they are just football coaches, it is not their place. Of course it's their place. This issue – what young black people face in this country – is the reality of their list.
There will be a reaction, probably from some of the privileged white people who most need to hear. It just makes talking more important. Isn't that the lesson we should have learned from Colin Kaepernick, kneeling down? If we had been more and more courageous enough to listen to him and stay with him, instead of allowing him to bear the brunt of a useless cultural war, would we still be here today?
If the systemic police brutality of black Americans is still a very hot topic for influential coaches to raise numerous numbers and clearly say what the believers and who they support, are they really the leaders they claim to be? Or are they pretending just enough to get the next recruiting class, the next contract, the next vacation home?
Silence is giving us our answer.
Follow USA TODAY Sports & Dan Wolken on Twitter @DanWolken.
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