The University of Memphis recently announced that its football players will wear helmets with a Black Lives Matter sticker for every game during the upcoming season.
“This season, for every game, our student-athletes’ helmets will have a BLM sticker,” Ryan Silverfield, head coach of the school’s football team, wrote on Twitter.
— Ryan Silverfield (@RSilverfield) June 30, 2020
University of Memphis President M. David Rudd claimed the decision “does not represent an endorsement of any political entity or affiliated group.”
“It represents a commitment to social justice and American values we all embrace but have not fully realized as a country,” he said in a statement released Thursday. “As a veteran who served during the Gulf War, I can speak personally to an unwavering dedication to our constitutional values with a passionate and steadfast commitment to liberty, equality and free speech.”
Silverfield made similar comments when speaking with Memphis Commercial Appeal, noting that the BLM decal “was an idea from our student athletes.”
“It does not mean we support any anti-American, violent organization or hate group or any specific political party. In fact, I love this country and I love our players. Rather, the decal is a show of support to our team,” he said.
Rudd said he supports the decision of the athletic department, head coach, and football team.
— Dr. M. David Rudd (@UofMemphisPres) July 2, 2020
“The exercise of free speech is essential to a representative republic,” he added. “I am proud of our young men for demonstrating leadership, encouraging civility, and for their genuine efforts to unite us so our University of Memphis family can become even stronger together.”
Silverfield joined athletes last month for a “unity walk” on campus in response to the death of George Floyd, who died on Memorial Day in the custody of Minneapolis police.
“It’s not an overnight deal, but we’ve got to continue to grow and I’ve got to do a better job myself as a head coach because I understand that I have a platform, and I have to voice myself in order to have student-athletes’ backs and make sure they are not being treated unjustly in all walks of life,” Silverfield told WMC during the event. “And that I don’t care if it’s tomorrow or 20 years from now, we’ve got to keep chipping away at this thing and hope to make a positive difference in society.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “University of Memphis Football” by University of Memphis.