Young people have historically been on the forefront of American change, protests, and progress. So it’s no surprise that college athletes, too, have decided to strike and use their platforms to speak about Jacob Blake and issues of racial injustice.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man and father, was shot seven times by a white officer in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday. He remains in critical condition, and cuffed to his hospital bed.
After the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to take the floor for yesterday’s playoff game, dominoes began to fall across the league and sports at large. The WNBA, some MLB and NFL teams, and, eventually, the NHL have decided to skip their games and practices
Today, football teams at Boston College, the University of South Florida, Appalachian State, and the University of Kentucky, choose not to take the field.
“I think as a coach you always take pride in being able to fix things for your players” USF head coach, Jeff Scott, said in an emotional press conference. “This is one of those situations that you can’t fix.”
This afternoon, Kentucky players and staff posed for a photo alongside the statues of Nate Northington, Wilbur Hackett, Greg Page, and Houston Hogg, the four college athletes who integrated SEC football. The photo was accompanied by a statement from the team.
Even though the players were the ones who decided to skip practice, head coaches at USF and BC did most of the talking to the media. But this afternoon, two UK football players, Luke Fortner and Josh Paschal, shared their thoughts to local reporters via zoom.
“We’re more than athletes,” said Paschal, a defensive end. “We can have opinions that may not be the same as [fans. But] I want them to see us as humans. This is a human rights issue, not a political issue. We should all be united in this fight.”
“This isn’t an issue for just our Black players,” Fortner, a white offensive lineman, said. “We have decided as a team that we will use this platform for positive change.”
Both athletes know that their platform is through college football. And they know the spotlight will likely fade once they graduate. But, for now — even if it’s just for one day — these college athletes choose to focus on issues that occur outside the lines.
“People see us merely as entertainment,” Paschal told the Zoom room, “that just doesn’t make sense in my mind because I bleed the same blood that Luke bleeds. We may look different but we are both intelligent young men and student-athletes.”