On Aug. 28, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles football team canceled practice and marched together to protest racial injustice. The team marched together from M.M. Roberts Stadium to the front of campus, joined by coaches, administration and students.
The recent shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man shot seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has intensified nationwide protests and debates against police brutality and racism.
Various sports leagues and athletes have taken action on the matter. Players in multiple professional leagues boycotted games, starting with the National Basketball Association and the Women’s National Basketball Association. Later, other leagues such as the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and National Football League canceled games and practices in response to the recent events.
Southern Miss players announced their decision in a message on Twitter, saying, “We live by a brotherhood. We hold ourselves to high standards on and off the field of play. We cannot be silent to instances of racial injustice in our country any longer. We are not practicing today. Instead, we are standing up against racial injustices and extending our brotherhood to actively speak out against racism.”
Head Coach Jay Hopson voiced his support for his players’ decisions on Twitter.
“We as a coaching staff fully support our players in a march against social injustice,” Hopson said.
Hopson also talked about the importance of the team’s brotherhood in a conference a day earlier.
“We really would like for the country […] to look at us or look at a lot of football programs and see how brotherhood works,” Hopson said. “Brotherhood is everybody standing together, loving each other, helping each other because there’s strength in diversity.”
Junior linebacker Devin Thomas explained how the team came together to tackle this issue.
“Football is what we do — it’s not who we are,” Thomas said. “It did bring us together and either we can be united as one or we can have groups. I think last night and today we’ve chosen for good that we’re going to be united as one.”
Thomas says that he knows some people don’t agree with their message, but he asks them to be open-minded.
“You don’t have to like what somebody does or like how somebody looks, but there’s a common denominator for everybody and that’s respect,” Thomas said. “That’s all that we want and that’s what we demand and we’re not going to settle for anything else.”
Freshman offensive lineman Emanuel Rushing says he believes this experience will help strengthen the team’s relationship together. He also talked about what he thinks the demonstration will achieve in the community.
“You can’t really change the way people think, but you can throw out what you’re really trying to say,” Rushing said. “As long as you get the point down and it’s not harmful to the community, then I think it’s really all worth it.”
Junior communication studies major Sean Smith says he decided to come out to show support for the players’ protest because he respects and believes their message.
“I feel like it shows maturity for one and responsibility in not ignoring what’s going on in the nation today,” Smith said. “Just coming out today and watching them show solidarity together as a group, as a team, family, a group of people who consider themselves brothers under one common goal shows solidarity that I respect.”
Smith also says the one thing he wants people to take out of this event is that anyone can be involved.
“[This] isn’t just a black thing,” Smith said. “Anybody that has African-American friends, people they consider family, church members […] you don’t want to see them ending up on a newspaper or ending up as a hashtag. I say that you should be able to come out and join.”
The Southern Miss football team took to the streets of Southern Miss campus Friday evening to shed light on social injustice after the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin. Many players held signs in support of equality and change. Photos by Charlie Luttrell