The Sun Belt Conference added to the nationwide fervor of support for the Black Lives Matter movement since the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis by issuing a statement Thursday.
The statement highlighted the fact that the league was the first FBS conference to hire an African-American commissioner in Keith Gill.
“The Sun Belt Conference is heartbroken by the tragic and devastating events taking place throughout our country. Racism and discrimination deprive too many people of their basic guaranteed liberties and destroy their hopes for a better life for themselves and their families. We are committed to working with our communities to create real and transformative change.
"The Sun Belt believes one of the most effective ways to make progress is to educate people about the power of civic engagement. In partnership with our student-athletes, coaches and staff, we intend to facilitate conversations that better educate those in our membership about our electoral process, work to help register voters and create meaningful dialogue with law enforcement to build stronger community policing. While the values embodied in these actions are not new to us, today marks the Sun Belt’s journey to be more intentional in creating initiatives that will have an impact.
"We understand that it will be very difficult to assuage the hurt and pain felt by so many. As an NCAA Division I FBS conference with over 4,000 student-athletes, coaches and administrators from all backgrounds, we intend to lead by example. We are proud to be the first FBS conference to hire an African-American commissioner. We support the efforts underway to help America improve our democracy with equal justice for all. We are hopeful that others will join us to do their part in making 'a more perfect Union.'
"Together, we can build a better future for all of our citizens and communities.”
Messages of support over the past week, however, have also come from individual schools as well through their twitter accounts.
UL football coach Billy Napier expressed shock over the tragedy and also issued a challenge.
“What happened in Minneapolis, that tragedy, isn’t the first of its kind," he said in a statement. "That reality is sad and frightening. The harsh truth is that prejudice and racism still very much exists among us, much like many other forms of wrongdoing and harm.
"We will all remember where we were when we saw the video. And the following footage from the aftermath in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Brooklyn and across the country. It is horrific and inexcusable. We can’t forget that feeling. Times like these must force us to reflect and look at our society at its very core. The question is, simply, what will we do? What will I do? And what will you do? The challenge is there.”
Coastal Carolina football coach Jamey Chadwell acknowledged he grew up in a small rural town without much diversity, only to later appreciate the lessons learned from diversity once he arrived on college campuses.
“Our society claims they see people as equals, but the treatment says otherwise," he said. "The senseless death of George Floyd is inexcusable. There is no room for racism and hate in our society. I will never know the feeling of walking down the street and fearing for my life, but I will use my platform to stand up for my brothers who are teammates. I will stand up for those I’ve had the privilege to coach to ensure that I can be a light for change so they will not have to fear anymore.”
Troy men’s basketball coach Scott Cross attempted to relate the pain of the Floyd family to his own family.
“My greatest fear in life is to lose a family member," he said. "I realize that I am very fortunate, because I don’t have to live in fear every single day that someone in my family will be treated unfairly, hurt, injured or even murdered because of the color of their skin. I cannot even begin to imagine what that must be like, and it has to change! No human being should ever have to live in fear because of how they look.”
Texas State football coach Jake Spavital hearkened back to Martin Luther King’s dream, suggesting current society is still falling short of fulfilling it.
“I am deeply saddened by the senseless and unjust events that have occurred. Mr. Floyd’s murder highlights a systemic pattern of racism and prejudice that exists throughout America today," he said. "It is so terribly sad and gut-wrenching to think that we are almost sixty years removed from Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech — and yet African-Americans today continue to experience so much racial inequality.”
Georgia Southern football coach Chad Lunsford simply tweeted: “Love is something we all want & should always try to give to others. Our own selfishness often times gets in the way and we screw it up! However, the desire to Hate/Kill for whatever reason makes absolutely NO sense! Do Right! #BlackLivesMatter #CoachesStandforJustice.”