There have been protests in major American cities every night for nearly two weeks now, all in response to a white Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin being caught on video killing an unarmed black man named George Floyd by placing his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
While everything has unfolded, I've spent a lot of time talking to black athletic directors, black coaches and black players about their past experiences and current emotions. They are, like everybody else, saddened and angered by what happened to George Floyd — but also, in this moment, hopeful that real change is coming. As Rhode Island coach David Cox told me earlier in the week, there has to be a next step. He said he's appreciative of prominent white coaches like John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Bob Huggins and Mark Few speaking up. But, Cox said, it has to be more than a tweet. There has to be a next step.
So what is the next step?
That remains to be seen, obviously. And it'll likely come in many forms. But Georgia Tech associate head coach Eric Reveno floated one idea on Twitter — and it's already catching on and gaining traction. What Reveno suggested is that all college basketball coaches should make Election Day (Nov. 3) a mandatory day off to emphasize to student-athletes the importance of voting.
No practices. No weights. No scrimmages.
Georgia Tech has already announced it is committed to doing it. Gonzaga coach Mark Few called Wednesday to tell me he's committed to doing it. And TCU coach Jamie Dixon, who is president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, called Thursday to tell me that the NABC is planning to formally recommend that Election Day be a mandatory off day for all college basketball teams.
What an awesome deal.
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Studies show college students are inconsistent voters. They often don't show up. Consequently, they have but a small voice in important matters. So this is one way for college coaches to emphasize to them, or at least to those of them who play college basketball, the importance of voting if the goal is to bring about real change. It's college coaches telling their players, and showing their players, it's so important to vote that we will not touch a basketball on Election Day even though the season is about to start. It's college coaches telling their players they will wake up, go to class, vote and watch the process of democracy play out. It's college coaches ensuring their players will have a voice in the next election.
Is it the biggest thing in the world?
But David Cox wanted to know what comes after everybody's tweets -- and, if nothing else, this is one example of something, an example of coaches following up on a promise to do more. How the election will turn out, who knows? But this much is already clear: coaches are going to do what they can to ensure their players, most of whom are black, get involved and participate, in many cases for the first time.