University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban and Director of Athletics Greg Byrne both released statements on Sunday, after days of protests against police brutality on people of color around the nation.
“I am shocked and angered by the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahamud Arbery,” Saban’s statement said. “We’re at an important moment for our country, and now is the time for us to choose kindness, tolerance, understanding, empathy, and most important…it’s time to love each other. Every life is precious, and we must understand we have so many more things that unite us than divide us.
“I’ve always been inspired and encouraged by examples set by those who came before us like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and so many others who devoted their lives to finding peaceful ways to rid our society of social inequities. As Dr. King said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught inn an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny. Whatever addicts one directly, affects all indirectly.’
“We are all part of this and we must banish these types of injustices in not just our country, but our world. The ultimate future of our nation is in our hands, and like the teams I’ve been privileged to coach, we must depend on and respect each other no matter our differences. We must come together as a society and treat one another with respect and dignity.”
Byrne’s statement said UA athletics has taken the previous several days to, “engage, listen and be present with our student-athletes, coaches and staff.”
“Our commitment to our student-athletes, our staff and our community goes far beyond competition,” Byrne’s statement said. “We are here to celebrate victories, but we are also here to support and extend a helping hand through life’s challenges.
“It is important that we not only speak of the awareness but also engage with conversation and action. We all have the ability to show love, grace, compassion, kindness, support and understanding for the people in our lives. It could be one person that you impact or it could be thousands. It does not matter the number. What matters is that we make a commitment to these actions.”
Head and assistant coaches of football and basketball teams around the country have taken to social media with their own statements on the subject. In the SEC, Georgia coach Kirby Smart released a statement on Saturday while Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason put his thoughts in a Twitter thread.
Before Saban released his statement, UA President Stuart R. Bell released his own statement, including the following: “At the University of Alabama our core principles include fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect for every member of our community, whether we are together in Tuscaloosa or engaging virtually throughout the world. Bias, violence and acts of hate contradict those values. As a community, we must remain united in our resolve to address such injustices in meaningful ways. Our University, preparing some of the brightest minds in the country for leadership in an increasingly diverse and global society, must be a beacon of hope, equality and inclusion.
“As president, I pledge to continue promoting a safe and respectful environment for every member of our campus community, and to support those who are particular targets of hate and racism. At UA, we will continue to do more and be better because of the efforts and kindness of our incredible students, faculty and staff.”
A protest is scheduled in Tuscaloosa for 5 p.m. Sunday at the Tuscaloosa Federal Court House. There is a Facebook group (PEACEFUL PROTEST — TUSCALOOSA) for another protest scheduled scheduled for Wednesday from 3-6 p.m.
UA is allowing student-athletes to return to campus on June 8, with football players coming first before basketball players in what Byrne called a phased return of athletes.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson