Gators head coach Dan Mullen: ’We’re seeing racial injustice has happened’
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Athletes across sports are speaking out about social injustice.
NBA players decided to boycott the playoff games on both Wednesday and Thursday to protest the shooting by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday of Jacob Blake. Blake was shot seven times in the back as he opened the door of his car, his three children were in the vehicle.
On Thursday, a few Florida Gator athletes started to speak out.
“We need change, " said Florida wide receiver Trevon Grimes. “I am more than an athlete. My color does not define me.”
“I am more than entertainment,” emphasized defensive end Zach Carter.
“You look at a football team. How that football team works and the respect that everyone has for each other when they’re on a team, it’s a pretty special deal,” Gators head coach Dan Mullen told reporters on a Zoom call on Thursday. “You see guys that have a lot of respect for each other, and they’re less concerned about where you’re from, what religion you are, what your socio-economic or racial backgrounds are.”
“Of course all lives do matter, but that’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about this specific situation where we’re seeing racial injustice has happened, and we’re trying to draw light to that. We’re not saying other things aren’t important, we’re trying to draw light to this.”
Mullen always viewed football as a “safe place.” A place where players can practice away from the issues that may haunt them in the ‘real’ world, However the Gators head coach knew that this time these hard real world topics needed to be addressed on the field.
He knew he had to have a conversation with his team. Mullen says he made sure to speak to his team about Jacob Blake’s shooting.
“You turn on any news channel, and its extremes, right? And I don’t know that we’re in extremes, I think a lot of people are probably in the middle, but I think a lot of people maybe are ignorant about a lot of things that go on. A lot of people get extremely emotional about things that go on,” he said. “The best way to respect somebody is to try to educate yourself about them, and if you do that, you have a chance of spreading a positive message.
“Change is uncomfortable for a lot of people. Change is really uncomfortable, I don’t want to change, I like what I have. To change I have to get outside my comfort zone and change is extremely uncomfortable,” Mullen added. “People have to try to get a little uncomfortable and people to have to try to go learn about other people. Go expand your horizons. Go expand what it is. Don’t just look at something and judge other people or don’t look at someone who is different than you and judge them, go learn about everything.”
Mullen admits he learned a lot the last few months.
“I look back and I’ve changed my opinions on a lot of things,” said Mullen.
According to Mullen, he read an article that really put things into perspective. In the article the writer discussed the ’Boston Strong’ shirts that came out after the Boston Marathon bombing.
“Well, why isn’t everybody strong, why does it only get to be Boston that gets to be strong, right,” Mullen says about the question that was posed by the article.
“When ’Black Lives Matter’ comes out and people want to fight and say ’All Lives Matter’,” Mullen said. “Of course all lives do matter, but that’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about this specific situation where we’re seeing racial injustice has happened, and we’re trying to draw light to that. We’re not saying other things aren’t important, we’re trying to draw light to this.”
Mullen understands that the Gators have a platform. A platform that can help push for change.
“We can help people better understand things,” said Mullen. “We can help people by trying to become educated about other people, to try to learn about other people, to try to learn about other people’s backgrounds, to try to learn and respect other people’s backgrounds and not just draw assumptions. It’s really hard to do.
“We had a great discussion about it after practice, great discussion about everything,” explained Mullen. “We’ve got to find even better ways to do it, have good discussions within our team on things moving forward.”
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