As hard as it has been to watch the video of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, Northside football coach John Simmons said, coaches and parents should use the tragedy to educate the youth around them.
Growing up on the west bank in New Orleans, Simmons has lived with the divide between a community’s youth and law enforcement isn’t a new concept.
He also has two 16-year-old teenage sons.
“A lot of kids in the hard-working communities, there’s a barrier between the youth and the police officers,” Simmons said. “There’s a lot of distrust.”
On the other hand, Simmons said has friends and even family in law enforcement.
“I know for sure that all police are not bad, but it’s like in every profession — education, any administration, big corporations — you’re going to have good and bad seeds, and a lot of times those bad seeds are going to overwhelm the good seeds,” he said.
Floyd died May 25 in Minneapolis after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the back of his neck during an arrest as Floyd was handcuffed. The incident was captured on video.
Chauvin was fired and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers — two who were also pinning down Floyd and another who was standing by — were also fired but haven't been charged.
Simmons said he lectures his sons on how to relate with authority.
“I’ve always educated my sons on how to deal with racial tensions and racial disparities and everything,” he said. “Education is really good. I teach them how to respect elders and what to do in situation. I realize that’s not solving the problem, because right now there’s a big barrier between communities and police officers.”
Simmons said his sons asked him questions after watching the coverage of Floyd’s death.
“They were watching and they started asking questions,” he said. “That’s good. When they start asking questions, we can have a bond between their generation and our generation and be able to guide them down the right path.
“I don’t condone hatred. I’m not a hateful person. I’ve never been. Look, we’ve got to teach our youth that once you find out the truth, you can go support that truth.”
Consequently, Simmons enjoyed the peaceful protesting that took place last weekend in Lafayette and around the state.
“They believe in protesting and I’m not going to stop them from protesting,” Simmons said. “Actually, I applaud it. Kids nowadays, it seems like all they see are video games and cell phones. Maybe this will bring some reality to the situation about what’s really going on in the world.
“I’m glad some kids were at to the protest. A lot of kids got a chance to see what’s going on. That gives us a chance to overcome the negative things with positive teaching.”
Simmons said he thinks this moment is a golden opportunity to educate the youth. He hopes distinguished Northside High alumni will soon visit his players to help in that educational process.
“Education right now is the best thing for our kids, telling them the reality of these situations,” Simmons said. “I think for so long we’ve had a lot of people just telling them only just enough and not the whole situation. If you tell them just so much, then they’re going to believe what they want to believe. What they believe might be negative, so if you tell them the whole truth about a situation, then you can try to find some positivity out of a negative situation and maybe try to make it better.”
Meanwhile, LCA’s director of football operations, Trev Faulk, said the Knights staff addressed the anger behind Floyd’s death with the team during a scheduled Zoom meeting Friday.
“We had a discussion about it,” Faulk said. “Pastor Jay (Miller) did the closing prayer that day, and I think he put it pretty well. At this point, it’s about unity and it starts with each of us individually. We know there is hate and different issues in the world. It’s important that we be the light.”
Faulk said he believes racial tensions aren’t as prevalent on LCA’s campus as some because of the existing culture there.
“To be honest, our kids’ perspective is a little different,” Faulk said. “Our school is so diverse. Our coaching job is a majority black coaching staff — so our coaching staff is diverse, our church is diverse. We have a lot of interracial marriages and interracial dating on campus, so the environment in the place we’re in is that people are just people. It’s not like a lot of other people are experiencing. We’re kind of sheltered, in our own little bubble here.”
Faulk said the Floyd death has sparked a reaction that he hopes will create some necessary change.
“I do think this time is a little different,” Faulk said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or Asian or Hispanic, whatever — I think just the human side of it is what troubled more people this time.
“I just think it’s the human side of it, the humanity of it. With the video, everybody was touched by that. I can put myself in those shoes and from talking to other people, they can put their son or their cousin or whoever in that situation. You would just hope there was more humanity used there. The shock of the video ... several people that I talked to couldn’t even watch the entire video.”