COLUMBIA, S.C. (TheBigSpur.com) - South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp was not particularly vocal on social media in the two weeks since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
Instead of putting words in a graphic on Twitter, he let his actions speak on Friday as he led the team in a peaceful march in the streets of Columbia up to the State Capitol Building.
On Monday, meeting with members of the media for the first time in over a month, spoke his own words instead of issuing a carefully crafted statement.
“Last week, I asked Levi Johnson, who is a friend of mine here in Columbia, to talk with our football team. His son, Chris, who is a chaplain for Coach Martin at basketball, and also Reverend Charles Jackson Jr. who runs our spiritual development program (also spoke).
“Mr. Johnson was part of the civil rights movements in the 60s. The first thing he talked to our players about was having the right to vote; that gives you a voice. We did this as a team on Friday, most of our guys registered to vote. That gives you a voice, and we did this as a team on Friday, we went down and registered. A lot did it online. We’re very proud of them to understand that part of it.
“That was the one most important thing he talked about. He also talked about educating yourself from your past. He was the first African-American graduate from the University of South Carolina Law School, first African-American to be president of the Bar Association here in the state of South Carolina. He has overcome racism in his life in a first-class manner. He’s one of the pillars of our community and how he leads his life. He really talked in terms of the things he went through, the adversity he faced coming up in a very tough time in the 60s.
“Reverend Charles Jackson Sr., who has spent 49 years at Brookland Baptist Church, talked to our teams as well. He emphasized communicating, a peaceful protest, which we did this Friday as a football team at the Governor’s Mansion and the State House. But continue to build relationships that break down the barriers that we have in our country.
“I think the two words as a team that we took from this was “educating” and “communicating.” The more you know about somebody, the more you feel comfortable with them, and that’s what we need to continue to do. The two unacceptable words at this time are “silence” and “violence.” Actions are louder than words. I can put out a paragraph on social media, and that does nothing compared to what we did Friday as a football team. The actions are what we need; we can’t be silent about racial inequality at this time.
“Violence, Dr. King once said, ‘Hate begets hate, violence begets violence.’ That’s still true today. That’s not the answer for what we need to do as we continue to move forward. We’re going to continue to educate and communicate to our team. I have speakers scheduled throughout the month of June.
“My father always told me that it’s easy to do what is right, and that means a lot to me. When you’re in a time of adversity, when you’re in a time of strife, to be able to do what is right. I’d love to one day see our world as a locker room. It doesn’t mean we all love each other, it’s not true. It doesn’t mean we all like each other, but we have respect for each other and we have respect for the common purpose that we’re all coming together for. Those are my thoughts on some recent events in our country.”
Q: Do you foresee the relationships changing between white coaches and African-American football players, especially in terms of communication?
“I can just speak for me personally and I don’t think anything is going to change. You go through life in your profession and what you do, you constantly, at least I do, self-evaluate the things you can do better. I can be a better listener, and that’s what I told our football team in some of the conversations we’ve had moving forward. As far as the relationship I have with our players, it’s not going to change for me.
Q: Why was it so important to you to be visible with your players at the protests on Friday?
“I felt it was important for our football team to make a statement and I told our team that Carol and I were going to be there on Friday, they’re more than welcome to walk if they wanted to. Our entire team, other than some guys who had some graduation who were not able to come, took part.”
Q: Some schools are having off days in November to vote. Will you do that?
“We’re going to certainly encourage them to vote. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But they’ll have plenty of time to go vote, I can assure you of that.”
Q: Jay Urich’s poster has gone viral. How important is it important to have a teammate like Jay and player like him in the locker room?
“Fortunately for us here at South Carolina, we have a lot of guys like Jay who care about each other, see the injustice going on in the country and want to stand up for each other. When you want to stand up for a teammate, it’s a brotherhood. I’m also very proud of Jay, but I’m also proud of the entire team.”
Q: When you have a team come together like yours did with the march, how do you feel that kind of coming together can translate to the type of team and performance you can have this fall?
“I don’t think there’s any question that during times of adversity, you find out a lot about people. I saw the team galvanize itself through some meetings last week and then obviously on Friday. That was nothing that surprised me or shocked me. I’ve been pleased with how we’ve worked through the offseason program, been pleased with how we’ve come through adverse situations to try to make a difference in our state, our city and our country.”