Big 12 Championship

On June 4, OU football player and Memorial High School graduate Isaiah Thomas tweeted this out: “If you can’t support me in my streets clothes, don’t support me in my uniform.”

Sports still aren’t happening, generally, and so interviews aren’t. We get occasional Zoom opportunities with coaches and administrators, but not with players. Not yet.

We are left to gauge athletes’ feelings about George Floyd’s murder and police brutality and racial injustice through their social media accounts. Many are doing so with raw, eloquent force.

For that, I say without a trace of sarcasm or cynicism: Thank God for Twitter.

There are still bullies, narcissists and racists – so many racists – doing their damndest to sabotage this social media platform I’d like to think was designed for the more clear-minded among us. The simple act of logging on to tweet one of my columns can sink me down a dark, depressing hole.

And yet during this dark, depressing passage of American history, I find myself logging on longer and longer so as to be enlightened. I see more virtue than hatred, because I see a lot of athletes, young, college athletes in most cases, using Twitter for its purer intentions.

I see Sooners, Cowboys and Golden Hurricane pushing back against racist, hateful tendencies. They are more composed than many of the adults who are tweeting.

Several come from places rife with the behavior we condemn but don’t fully understand. Several have teammates who don’t come from those places, but are making better progress than we are toward understanding. And sympathizing.

It has been a beautiful expression of free speech. It has restored a lot of my faith in humanity, and some of my faith in a social media platform I once enjoyed unconditionally.

Maybe the message here isn’t so much Thank God for Twitter as Thank God for the athletes on Twitter. It’s restorative either way.

How about this for a sub-message, to the coaches and administrators: Do not infringe on that free speech.

Applied to the circumstances gripping our country: Do not be Kirk Ferentz.

He is head coach of an Iowa football program coming to terms with both the troubling racial tenor across the country and allegations of racist, oppressive behavior by some Iowa football staff members. Among the sparks from this story is that Ferentz restricts his players’ Twitter usage.

In fairness, players don’t seem to have pushed back on his policy in the past.

“If you really have a love for the game, you’re willing to make certain sacrifices,” Iowa cornerback Greg Mabin told the Des Moines Register in 2015. “And that’s one of them.”

In reality, and what a stark reality we find ourselves in currently, it was pointless that players were asked to sacrifice to begin with.

Ferentz just lifted his ban in light of our national climate. One player after another, black and white, poured out his feelings as a result. It was an emotional, informative display, reflective of others I have seen recently from players in programs closer to home.

Ferentz lifted his ban, but at the cost of being exposed as insensitive and overbearing to his players. It is a terrible look for a coach when times aren’t troubled. It is twice as bad right now.

In troubled times it is often better to hear from 20-year-old players, not their 64-year-old head coach. If the 64-year-old wants to meet with the 20-year-olds and agree on reasonable policies regarding social media usage, that’s fine. That’s the team concept at work.

Just let the players have their say. Trust them that they grow from any lapses in judgment, as coaches did when they were players. Trust that the overwhelming majority of players will reward that trust and express themselves thoughtfully the overwhelming majority of the time.

The players are part of our reward right now. They are giving us hope and reason at a time we can use both in mass quantities.

We might not hear it from their mouths in interviews, but we feel them on Twitter. That’s what matters right now.

That’s some saving grace on more than one level.

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Guerin Emig


Twitter: @GuerinEmig



Sports Columnist

Proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the Oklahoma Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.