NCAA national champion Arike Ogunbowale released a pertinent thread of tweets yesterday instructing young athletes to pay attention to which coaches are remaining silent — or hiding behind word soups — on the topic of police brutality against black Americans.
Civil unrest has filled the airtime of many news networks over the last week as protestors respond to the death of George Floyd and other black folks killed at the hands of police.
Ogunbowale, now a point guard for the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, released a series of tweets on police brutality, advising young people: “Play for a coach that is truly invested in you as a person and not just you as an athlete.”
Muffett McGraw, Ogubowale’s former coach at Notre Dame, has been vocal about racial and gender injustices for years. Floyd’s death was no different.
WNBA point guard and former Rutgers standout Kahleah Copper was straight up about the true mentorship she received playing for a black woman.
“I’m so glad I went and played for a BLACK WOMAN. She knew and understood what & where I came from. [C. Vivian Stringer] NEVER BACKED DOWN, instilled PRIDE in me & ALWAYS spoke her mind PERIOD.”
Ogunbowale’s message was directed toward black athletes, but if white athletes in this country are going to be doing the heavy lifting toward dismantling white supremacy and racism, a statement addressing “black people,” “racism,” and preferably “policing,” should factor into which coach they would be willing to play for.
At this point, it’s a matter of being unequally yoked. Understanding what is right and what is wrong. You can’t want the athlete but not take the issues and fear most pivotal in their existence. Standing on those issues and speaking to them unequivocally is mandatory at this point.
Let that sink in.
So it’s no surprise that coaches like Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, who stood with their chests out denouncing Colin Kaepernick four years ago (“I totally disagree with that”) remain confused today on the issues that continue to threaten the life of the very athletes who have propelled them into wealth and fame.
“First and foremost I know that we are all hurting for the Floyd family and our country. I can speak for our entire staff and our team in that regard for sure. We have all witnessed just disgusting acts of evil. That’s really the only word I can appropriately use…
“What I know as I approach everything from a perspective of faith is that where there are people, there’s going to be hate, there’s going to be racism and greed and jealousy and crime and so on because we live in a sinful fallen world. We’ve had so much bad news.”
Swinney, who has been the head coach at Clemson for 12 seasons and leads young Black men on a daily basis, couldn’t offer any more to the topic then that?
Aside from religion, this is an act far deeper than the devil’s spirit taking over numerous Minneapolis officers’ hearts. Call it what it is: domestic terroism. Police brutality upon a Black man that was perpetuated by racism and anti-blackness. Period.
I promise it’s not that hard.
Swinney says now people should “listen,” but why couldn’t this happen years ago? Kaepernick was trying to raise attention to this issue four years ago and it was a “distraction,” to him.
If Swinney cared about deeper issues facing the black athletes on his team, if he wasn’t comfortable having the conversation at that time, he could have just looked into the message Kaepernick was trying to bring awareness to. There are books, literature, and documentaries on police brutality to black bodies.
If Trevor Lawerence, Clemson’s quarterback at 20-years-old can understand what is happening, Swinney at 50 has to have some level of consciousness as a coach to see the injustices.
What Dawn Staley said in her Players Tribune essay yesterday was a great way to sum up what’s happening even with the expectations of non black coaches.
“They won’t get it, no matter how many black bodies they see under the knees of the police. When you are privileged — when you are the privileged race, you don’t have to think about what we think about daily.”
And that’s probably why Ogunbowale warned other athletes of the circumstances they might be setting themselves up for if they aren’t careful.