Kirk Herbstreit Breaks Down as He Tells White Players, ‘We Gotta Do Better’

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
An emotional Kirk Herbstreit tears up talking about racial injustice during ESPN’s first airing of College GameDay.
An emotional Kirk Herbstreit tears up talking about racial injustice during ESPN’s first airing of College GameDay.

In the 2020 version of College GameDay, we see Kirk Herbstreit broke down in tears, and Lee Corso, working remotely surrounded by cardboard cutouts of his colleagues, said college football should not be played due to COVID-19 concerns.

The season kickoff of ESPN’s college football show featured Rece Davis manning the studio in Bristol, Conn., while Herbstreit, Corso, Desmond Howard, David Pollack and Maria Taylor worked remotely as a preview to Marshall’s 59-0 drubbing of Eastern Kentucky. GameDay plans to return to live-action and will be in Winston-Salem, N.C., when No. 1 Clemson plays at Wake Forest next week.

Herbstreit, voice cracking while talking about racial injustices, praised players who have become activists and said it is incumbent on white players and others to listen and help.


“If you’re a white player in these locker rooms, it’s incumbent on you to really help with the change. I think Trevor Lawrence has been involved. I think it’s one thing to have rallies. It’s one thing to skip make a statement. My question is, what’s next? What will lead to change? I was talking to David Shaw, the head coach of Stanford, he shared a quote to me and it reminded me... from Benjamin Franklin. ‘Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as to those who are.’

“The black community is hurting. How do you listen to these stories and not feel pain and not want to help? Wearing a hoodie and putting your hands (on a steering wheel) at 10-2. Oh god, I better look out because I’m wearing Nike gear. What are we talking about? You can’t relate to that if you’re white but you can listen. You can try to help because this is not OK. It’s just not. We gotta do better, man. We gotta lock arm-and-arm and be together. In a football locker room, that’s gone. We gotta do better.”


Herbstreit’s emotional speech clearly impacted his co-hosts, with Taylor wiping away tears. Davis said, “It’s one of the things, and why sports can be a leader in this area, it’s happened throughout history, dating back to Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali.”

Corso said he agrees with the decision by the Big Ten and the Pac-12 to not play because of the “What ifs,” saying, “Basically, there are a number of people, thousands of people involved in college football. I would not play football until February 2021.”


Howard noted that 80 percent of the players who opted out are Black, and said that as a father, if his sons were playing college football, he would “err on the side of caution and do probably what [Big Ten commissioner] Kevin Warren and [Pac-12 commissioner] Larry Scott did with their conferences.

“I would do [it] with my sons and tell them that they couldn’t play for the simple fact that you’re dealing with too much medical uncertainty at that point and too many unknown health risks.”


Herbstreit, who has two sons, Jake and Tye, playing at Clemson, said he feels they are in good hands under coach Dabo Swinney.

“I don’t think we can throw a blanket over this and just say, ‘Yes, we should definitely be playing football!’” Herbstreit said. “Or, ‘No, we should definitely not be playing football!’ I think it varies from region to region.”