Athletic directors, men’s basketball coaches, football coaches, baseball coaches, and others who lead sports that include Black male college athletes would be well served – if they have not already -to have an intentional and open conversation with their Black male college athletes about the death Ahmaud Arbery. Some college athletic directors and coaches may not even know who this is or what happened so let me take a step back and recommend that you spend some time researching what happened. Some, regardless of race, political affiliation or SES, are calling the death of Ahmaud Arbery a “modern day lynching”.
Ahmaud Arbery was shot three times with a shoot gun, on February 23, 2020, by Travis McMichael, while jogging. Travis and his father Gregory were not arrested until two months later and only after national outrage over the leaked video of the shooting.
College sports leaders, both White and Black, male and female, “must” engage in a conversation with their Black male college athletes about Ahmaud Arbery because these young men are probably thinking “I am Ahmaud Arbery”. Once again, these young men have been reminded that an unarmed man, in particular an unarmed Black man, can be shot in America without swift intervention from law enforcement and righteousness from the justice system.
The leaders in college sports, both male and female, White, Black and Asian, need to have an intentional conversation with their Black male college athletes about the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Not an email, not a story in a newsletter, and not a Tweet…
I'm not suggesting that athletic director’s and head coaches prematurely, verbally convict Gregory and Travis McMichael without due process. However, what I am asking is for you to let the young Black male college athletes in your programs, … who make a significant contribution to your financial well-being, and that of your department, know that you are aware, that you care, and that they have your ear.
Let me be crystal clear – this is not a task that you pass off to your director of recruiting, your assistant coach, your diversity and inclusion officer, or the coach/athletic department official who is designated to relate to the Black athletes in your program. This may be one of the single most important tasks that you have before these young men return predominately white campuses where some of their fellow students, fans, professors, and athletic donors view them like Gregory and Travis McMichael viewed Ahmaud Arbery.
The conversation can be a simple effort to communicate that you:
1. watched the video
2. are following the discourse;
3. are concerned;
4. acknowledge that the death of Ahmaud is something they may be thinking about, and;
5. offer an invitation and provide a forum for them to talk to you about their concerns.
When college football will start, athletic department furloughs, and pay cuts are critical to the wellness of your department, but so is this conversation. It is not only important for the Black male college athletes who are currently at your school, but also those who will be considering becoming a part of your athletic department in the near future.
If you truly want Black males, who already face a life full of disparities, whether is related to education, health care, COVID-19, or justice,… to give you their best, then they have to know you care.
To date, I have not heard one athletic director or Power Five head coach speak out on the death of Ahmaud Arbery. That is a damn shame. On the other hand, I bet athletic directors and head coaches think about, daily, if not hourly, when their Black male athletes will get back to campus. If they go jogging in certain parts of America, then they may never return to campus!
Engaging in a dialogue about how this group of young men is feeling about Ahmaud Arbery can help them deal with, recover from, and grow through this traumatic event. Your conversation with your Black male athletes might also be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful season, a win versus a loss in close game, or a close-knit family compared to a traumatized team.
In closing, I want to challenge every athletic director, from every athlete department with at least one Black male, to speak with them about the death of Ahmaud Arbery, post a message on their social media that they did so, and use #ADsDiscussAhmaud.
All I have heard during this pandemic is a bunch of athletic directors talking about how much they care about the health of their athletes – well here is a chance to show that you truly care about the mental and behavioral health of your Black college athletes!
Talking points for Athletic Directors & Head Coaches
- The case had no arrests until more than two months after the 25-year-old man was killed while out for a run.
- Federal officials are weighing the possibility of federal hate crime charges in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, a spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Justice said Monday.
- The Players Coalition, a racial justice group made up of professional athletes, sent a letter Friday to the FBI and prosecutors requesting a federal investigation into Arbery’s death.
- “Our nation continues to underestimate the painful burden that has been placed on black people and the traumatic injury we continue to aggravate when our justice system refuses to hold accountable perpetrators of unnecessary violence if they are white and invoke some public safety defense." - Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative.