Alabama Football Leads March Against Social Injustice
There was no football practice Monday for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Instead, its players and coaches participated in a march protesting the social injustices that have ignited outrage again throughout the country. From Breonna Taylor, to George Floyd to Jacob Blake, we have all seen and heard about the instances of violence at the hands of police that have sparked social unrest in the country.
Najee Harris, Chris Owens, Jarez Parks and the rest of the Crimson Tide football team marched alongside Nick Saban and other Alabama athletes from the Mal Moore Athletic Complex to the front doors of Foster Auditorium, the site of the infamous "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door." In June 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace, stood in front of Foster Auditorium on and attempted to bar two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from registering for classes at the university.
Nick Saban, Najee Harris, Dr. Stuart Bell, Jarez Parks, University of Alabama's Chief of Police John Hooks, Greg Byrne, Chris Owens and Dr. G Christine Taylor spoke to the crowd about the motivations and inspirations for holding the march.
"Sports has always created a platform for social change, for each of us involved in sports I think we have a responsibility and an obligation to do that in a responsible way and to use our platform in a positive way," Coach Saban said.
Saban said he has gotten to learn a lot from his football players and acknowledged that he doesn't get to see the world through the same perspective as his players. The accomplished coach discussed the many leaders the program has brought in to speak to his players and Saban even said by listening to guest speakers it helped him grow as the leader of this organization.
"Today, I'm like a proud parent, I'm proud of our team, I'm proud of our messengers over here and I'm very proud of the message. I'm very proud of the 'All lives can't matter until black lives matter' video that we did early on that what I think had a very positive impact. It was something we did together as a team, this is something that the team decided to do together as a team, so I'm very proud and supportive of what they are trying to say in a peaceful and intelligent way," said Saban.
Senior running back Najee Harris was next to the podium, Harris highlighted the reasons for gathering today and said that the past few months have brought to light issues that have been taking place for years. Harris said it is not enough to simply talk about the problem of racism and hate crimes but that we must take action. Harris asked, what's next?
"For certain, we cannot let this momentum die, this has to be an ongoing movement until change happens. We must do more as a team and as individuals to keep this movement going. I'm looking forward to working with programs like the Alberta Head Start Community Project and Big Brothers, Big Sisters to help with matters like this," said Harris.
Harris called for changes in our justice system and called for holding law enforcement accountable for their actions. He said that re-training officers in order to make sure no unnecessary harm comes to civilians would be a positive step. Harris also called for a renewed respect for law enforcement and said that the public must understand that they have the responsibility to protect and serve the public. Harris said officers must carry out their duties with fairness for all people.
Dr. Stuart Bell, the university president commended the student athletes for gathering together in unity and complimented the students for attempting to enact change in a peaceful and positive way.
"Today is a reminder of that, that we each have a role to play in advancing our campus, to be more welcoming, to be more inclusive and to be more fair," said Dr. Bell.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jarez Parks stood next at the podium and spoke next about his fears as a black man and how thankful he is each day when arriving back at home. Parks
"My life has been in a constant fear of being and knowing that no matter how educated, how intelligent or how skilled I am that my skin can be a perception changer. We don't want revenge, we just want fairness and equality. Which is something we can all achieve by togetherness," said Parks.
He spoke about the need for teams to move as one, and expressed his desire for society to move as one to achieve the goals of peace, unity and fairness. Parks concluded his portion by stating societal division will never be the goal.
UAPD Police Chief John Hooks stepped up next and discussed the process of police recruitment and what he looks for in perspective officers. Chief Hooks discussed how difficult it is to find perspective officers.
He acknowledged that an officer's ability to communicate with the public is an officer's greatest asset. Officer Hooks discussed the many roles of a police officer and acknowledged that not everyone is cut out to do the job properly.
"Good communication is going to be used, more often in an officer's career than the gun on their side," said Officer Hooks. He went on to say that the department's goal is to be more than just a uniform to the public.
Officer Hooks acknowledged that no one is perfect but he said his department is committed to striving for perfection every day within the community.
Alabama's Athletic Director, Greg Byrne, was next to the microphone and he opened by acknowledging there have been things this summer that he's never had to think about in the past given his upbringing.
"Regina, my wife and I, haven't had to have some talks with our boys that many others in our community have had to have. Such as what to do if they got pulled over. I've never had to talk to my boys or worry about them getting followed by security when shopping, I never thought it could be dangerous for them to go out for a jog," said Byrne.
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Chris Owens spent his time at the microphone comparing society to the student athlete body that spent the afternoon marching for equality. Owens said the fact that society is divided prevents the nation from moving forward and accomplishing goals.
Dr. G Christine Taylor is the Associate Provost for Diversity and Equality. She concluded the program by lauding the student athletes and their drive for positive change in our community. Dr. Taylor thanked the athletes for giving her bragging rights over her colleagues in the SEC. She urged those who were gathered today not to slow down and continue on in their push for change.
Dr. Taylor offered the public three practical steps that the public can do to ensure change and progress continues. Dr. Taylor said that the public needs to, "stay woke" and be aware of what's going on around them. Secondly she urged the student athletes to say something if they see something out of line. Lastly she urged everyone to make sure they participate in the voting process Nov. 3.
The crowd then marched back to the Mal Moore Athletic Complex and dissipated into the afternoon but it was clear that the wheels of change on the campus of the University of Alabama had been thrust into motion.
Black Lives Matter Murals