UNF Spinnaker

As recent tragedies bring racial injustice to light, UNF and the ASUN conference continue to push for change and understanding

John Watson, Sports Editor

In the three months since Covid-19 forced students off-campus and shut down college athletics nationwide, unfortunate events have occurred and suddenly a pandemic has not been the center of attention.

When footage surfaced of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin fatally kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, shockwaves were sent nationwide and the Black Lives Matter movement was brought to the immediate attention of millions once again.

As college athletic programs across the country release statements regarding the recent tragedies and racial injustices, UNF’s Athletic Director Lee Moon released a statement on June 2nd regarding the events and how athletics has to do better saying:

 

“Our hearts break for our marginalized and minority groups that continue to experience racial injustice, intolerance and violence.  It is our responsibility as leaders – and more importantly – as human beings– to commit to righting past wrongs while striving to impact positive changes in our UNF and Jacksonville community as we move forward.

Our 19 sports teams and staff are comprised of nearly 300 student-athletes and more than 75 coaches and staff.  We are a microcosm of our larger society and a group filled with diversity.

We are different colors and creeds. We have different faiths and religions. We come from different states and countries. We have different family and socio-economic backgrounds.   

However, WE are more ALIKE than we are different.

The events this past week, were a reminder to me that our athletic department needs to do better.  We need to provide more programming.  We need to listen more and talk less. We need to strive to understand and be understood. We need to continue to work for positive progress between teammates and teams, staff and co-workers as well as across our campus and throughout our city.

Ours are not simple problems and there will not be simple solutions.  However, we WILL be active in demonstrating tolerance and respect for others.  While we will may not always agree, we will respect each person’s right to their differing opinions. We might not change someone’s mind, but havng the opportunity to share and open another’s mind to the CONSIDERATION of change will be progress.

I have been involved in college athletics for almost 50 years.  I have seen social change and progress over those five decades, but make no mistake, we have not arrived. Social injustice, racial inequities and intolerance exist and are a daily reality for too many in our world, including some of whom I call my student-athletes and staff. We have a long way to go and we will continue to work for equality for all.

May you be kind to yourself, but more importantly others in the days to come.”

 

Being kind to people of other backgrounds and being active in “demonstrating tolerance and respect for others” was a large part of what Moon had to say in his message. 

After Moon made his statement on June 2nd, I spoke with men’s basketball head coach Matthew Driscoll, who also shared his thoughts on the recent events and what can be learned from them.

“When you look at those injustices… and you take that into consideration, the one thing that you have to hear clearly is there has to be actions taken,” Driscoll explained. “There has to be actions taken when scenarios present themselves without turning a blind eye.”

As the men’s basketball head coach, Driscoll sees himself as an important figure in his player’s future success Photo by Lili Weinstein

 

Driscoll has a plan to keep setting a high standard for his players while also listening to what they have to say. He has held countless virtual meetings with his current players, and an open forum has allowed different voices to be heard.

“Our guys have very interesting aspects, whether it be white players or black players, they had very good understanding,” Driscoll explained. “What we try to do is we always try to talk about solutions. Same thing in basketball, there’s going to be problems and we need solutions.”

One solution Driscoll mentioned is encouraging his young players to vote. As members of a democratic economy, he believes change happens at the polling booth and Driscoll stressed the importance of having voices heard.

“We’re not going to move past this,” Driscoll explained “One thing we’re really consistent with is vote on November 3rd.”

The ASUN conference also released a statement from commissioner Ted Gumbart on the recent events, saying:

“Dear teammates,

As a society, we in the United States of America must meet the challenge before us to create just and equal treatment for all of our citizens. A team succeeds with unity.

We operate in higher education. We operate in college athletics. Let us combine our great educational, competitive and communication platforms to make a positive impact to improve race relations in America. We all must be students. We all must be teachers. We all must be teammates. Let us learn the value of diversity, embrace the opportunity to push for change, and fight for what is right!

Many organizations, athletic leagues, universities and individuals have made statements on the racial justice issue the past few days. Thank you all for the commitment and the inspiration to become part of the movement for change. Those messages have helped shape this ASUN statement. In particular, I share a quote below from a message published June 1 by the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA):

“Conversations about race and injustice can be uncomfortable and difficult, but the impact to our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and their families is too great to be silent. . . These are challenging times, but with love, compassion and understanding, we will continue to support one another.”

In support of the need to unify voices, stay engaged in a constructive conversation, and build a message of equality, the ASUN will begin production of a new video series. This will be developed in concert with our SAAC, and it will provide a forum for discussing the complex and challenging race relations issues woven into all of our lives.

Peace to all teammates. Let this be a crossroads where we build a stronger, better path.”

While a call to action is widespread, a common theme from all levels of athletics is change. History cannot be changed, but learning from the actions and words of others can shape the future.

___

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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As recent tragedies bring racial injustice to light, UNF and the ASUN conference continue to push for change and understanding