As protests continue around the country following the death of George Floyd, many sports figures and teams around Texas are taking action and making it clear they are not going to “stick to sports.”
Yesterday, the football team from the University of Texas marched arm in arm with head coach Tom Herman from their stadium to the state capitol. They then knelt alongside members of the Austin Police Department for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on the neck of George Floyd.
Herman did not offer any comments to the press, noting this was a day for the players. Several members of the team have been vocal. Wide receiver Brennan Eagles said on Twitter he was not going to play one snap due to a “broken system.” More coaches and players from the team also used social media to acknowledge and support Black Lives Matter.
Around the state, professional players, coaches and owners from the NFL, NBA, WNBA, and MLB have been seen marching with protesters. Several teams have been sharing insights from players. Two players from the Texas Rangers, Willie Calhoun and Taylor Hearn, spoke about their own experiences with profiling.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, never one to shy away from criticizing Trump, unloaded even further. “We need a president to come out and say simply that black lives matter,” Popovich said. “Just say those three words. But he won’t, and he can’t.”
Nearly every single major team in Texas released a statement with one big exception: the Dallas Cowboys.
Yesterday reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes (a native Texan who played for Texas Tech) appeared in a powerful video with several other players, including Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Houston Texan Deshaun Watson for a “message to the NFL.” The video asks the NFL to address several issues: affirming Black Lives Matter and to admit they were wrong for silencing peaceful protesters.
The Houston Texans retweeted the video. “With our players all the way. Black Lives Matter.” The team has also posted several videos of coaches and players talking about social justice.
On Wednesday, New Orleans Saints quarterback (and Westlake native) Drew Brees was asked about whether or not his views on Colin Kaepernick had changed in light of George Floyd. He said he would “never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag.” After swift backlash from players (and even some teammates), he issued an apology on Instagram. Many players still found that inadequate. Brees apologized to his teammates in a virtual meeting and posted another video.
Brees received support from Republican lawmakers and groups around the state. Sen. John Cornyn retweeted the interview from Yahoo Finance and Ted Cruz lamented the backlash he was receiving. “Pro sports have become PC speech police, terrified of offending the angry left,” Cruz said.With sports leagues reopening around the country, and in Texas where Abbott is making a big push to bring in fans, players are going to have an even bigger opportunity to make their voices heard.
Update: Since this article was posted the Dallas Cowboys did release a video showing players discussing recent events with police officers and other community leaders about opening a dialogue on social justice.
Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images