Pro sports teams across the nation pushed the pause button, opting not to play games and reflecting on social injustice in the United States. A few college football teams chose not to practice on Thursday and instead held team meetings to discuss their emotions and share personal stories.
The Florida State football team had a scheduled day off on Thursday and met Friday morning before practice. Coach Mike Norvell said he wanted the meeting to be an “open forum.”
“I was really pleased with the turnout of our guys, having the opportunity to continue to talk about our feelings,” Norvell said. “There are still acts of hate or injustice that are showing up throughout our country. We are aware. We know as a football team, as a program, as a university…those are things, every day, we’ve got to show our actions continue to be part of the solution. It’s a hard time for all of us. But to be able to come together and share their feelings, our coaches, it was a good meeting this morning and there will be further action here probably this afternoon as well as a daily action. Those are things we can control as individuals to have the best impact on others in doing our part to help better this world.”
FSU players have used their platform on social media to speak out but also bring about change. Beyond the player-led march to the Florida Capitol in June, players have participated in volunteer projects as well as a book drive at Riley Elementary.
“We can go to Boys and Girls Clubs, go back to elementary schools, just show them that you can do more, you can have the opportunity to be where we are now,” linebacker Kalen DeLoach said. “Just show them that we’re here for y’all and you can count on us any time you need us.”
The recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., prompted a further call for listening and understanding from coaches and athletes across the country. FSU receivers coach Ron Dugans posted on Twitter a few lines from Atlanta Hawks coach Lloys Pierce’s passionate speech, in which he said in part: “I was born a Black man and I know one day I’ll die a Black man … but I don’t want to die because I’m a black man.”
Norvell made team-building exercises part of the Seminoles’ schedule this month. They had time to hang out together and have fun but time was also spent sharing their backgrounds and experiences. Having difficult and sensitive conversations has helped them understand each other.
“I want people to know this is an ongoing issue for several years,” receiver Isaiah Bolden said. “I want all athletes out there to know you have a voice. Athletes, coaches, everybody should come together and spread love and peace. That is the main thing, spreading peace. No violence or anything. I feel like all these athletes who have got a platform should set an example, inspire others. That is the big thing that I want as a message to be sent. I feel like us as a team, as in Marvin (Wilson), James (Blackman), several other guys, they take that leadership role and set an example for others.”
Bolden said through the conversations he feels coaches are learning from and in support of their players.
“Our coaching staff, everybody on this staff wants to stand with their players, regardless of how other people outside feel,” Bolden said. “Seeing that is a blessing. Having a coach knowing he has our back regardless of any negative comments he’ll get, he doesn’t care, he is with us, he is standing with us. I feel like that is something all coaches around the country should do, follow in Coach Norvell’s footsteps.”