Amidst a historic social and racial reckoning that has sparked protests globally, SMU basketball star Feron Hunt, like many of his basketball contemporaries, wants to be a catalyst for change. And as a Black athlete at a major college with a unique platform, he feels the time to put up or shut up is now.
"I may not play basketball this year with everything going on in the world," he tweeted last week. "I want to be apart of the change to end racism!"
Hunt, a junior forward, is one of the most gifted athletes in the AAC and a potential top-50 pick in next year's NBA Draft. So to skip the 2020-21 season entirely could potentially be detrimental to his basketball career, and to his future earning power. But weighing his options and surveying the social climate, he feels compelled to plant his flag.
"I just want to take a stand," Hunt told CBS Sports this week. "A lot of people aren't using their platform like they should, and they're not talking about the problems that are going on right now in the U.S. When you don't take a stand or you don't use your platform to help, then you're a part of the problem."
Hunt doesn't have the answers to fix everything broken in America, but he said the problems -- police brutality, social injustice, racial inequality and systemic racism -- cannot go ignored. So he's actively using his voice to bring awareness to it all, a critical step, he says, to addressing the deeply-rooted issues.
"I'm just trying to spread awareness to the fact that there is social injustice and police brutality," he said. "To the fact that Black Lives Matter. And when I say that, I'm not saying that White lives don't matter. I'm saying that all lives matter, but right now, Black lives are in danger. A lot of people want to brush that off and act like it's not a problem, but it 100% is."
At SMU, Hunt has helped bring awareness on his own campus and in his own community. Last week he suggested an on-campus protest to his teammates in the aftermath of a police officer shooting a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Not only did his teammates get involved -- but other athletes and coaches marched through campus as well.
"I suggested the idea last Friday that we should have a protest on campus and we did," he said. "We had a lot of people out there who weren't athletes. SMU has done a great job of noticing the problem, of trying to support the cause and what we're trying to do."
Will Hunt shut it down and sit the season? Will other college athletes consider a similar route because of the social climate or because of COVID-19 related concerns? To this point it remains unclear as the season fast approaches. But for Hunt, the answer depends largely on what type of platform he'd have off the court versus on it.
He says he's been encouraged by how NBA players have used their voices in the Walt Disney World bubble, and by SMU's embracing of the movement. He feels comfortable speaking out and confident he has support. Still, raising awareness is only the first step in a potential resolution with many hurdles to overcome. Gaining understanding and empathy is next.
"If you're not Black or a minority then it's hard to understand our plight," he says. "But my message is that I want you to take notice, to not ignore what's happening. I think that's where there are problems in the United States: people just act like it's not happening."
Hunt averaged 11.0 points as SMU went 19-11 last season, and there is optimism around the program that next season, with almost every key player returning, could be better. That's only part of how Hunt sees the upcoming season, though, because "basketball is just something I do for fun."
"Right now I feel like if I can help bring an end to police brutality and bring change to social injustices, versus playing basketball, then I'll feel like I accomplished something bigger than me," Hunt said. "I love basketball with all my heart, but if I can have a greater impact by not playing, then that's something I would consider."