DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Like so many others around the world, the Southern Methodist University (SMU) football team is hurting.
“I was angry. I was very angry,” said Mustangs linebacker Shaine Hailey
“I was hurt man. I’m hurt now,” said Mustangs running backs coach Ra’Shaad Samples
“No normal human being can look at, watch that and not see a problem.” said Mustangs wide receiver Judah Bell.
On May 25 in Minneapolis, George Floyd tragically lost his life while in police custody — caught on video for the world to see. The pain from Floyd’s death has led SMU football players to take a stand.
“A lot of people get behind us for football,” said Bell. “But it’s weird people won’t come out to support people who are losing their lives because of the color of their skin.”
On Friday, the Mustangs gathered at Dallas City Hall to take part in a youth protest with hopes of tackling a problem much bigger than the game of football.
“We knew if we took a step forward as a program, that a lot of people would follow suit, use our platform to fight against racism, fight against injustice and get the change that we need to have,” Bell said.
But before the Mustangs could lend their voice to the protest, they had to have some hard conversations as a team first.
“There’s been a lot of guys angry. A lot of guys are hurt,” Bell said.
“We’ve had raw conversations, raw emotions,” Samples said. “Some of our guys cried and we cried with them. So it’s been good man. We’re making progress and that’s all we want right now.”
The SMU football players are hoping their actions will help inspire change in the fight against social injustice, but they know they can not win this battle alone.
“It means a lot to the football players on this team that our coach is behind us in whatever we want to do,” Hailey said.
“That’s our responsibility to our players, that’s our responsibility to young people, it’s our responsibility in the roles that we have, to try to speak for justice and try to become a voice,” SMU head football coach Sonny Dykes said. “There are so many voices that deserve to be heard and so we have a platform and we need to use that platform to create change.”
“He knows he’ll never understand what we go through as black men,” Samples said. “But to ask what can he do to help… what can he do to make this better… that says a lot to me because if more white people in position of power asked those questions, this process would happen a lot faster.”
Friday’s protest was the first ever demonstration the Mustang football team has stood for, but the fight for social justice does not end here.
“We’re gonna help educate a lot of people at SMU about systemic racism and voting. We’re gonna try to do a lot of things, simple things that anyone can help do,” Bell said.
“Instead of wearing a t-shirt or using a hashtag, they wanna do something to be active, to create change,” Dykes said.
“We don’t want to be the people who weren’t proactive, who sat down and watched and just talked about it,” Samples said. “I think we’re here today to stand on that and show the community they have our support and they’re gonna have our support moving forward.”