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Schovanec, coaches and fans stand with protesting student athletes as some threaten to cut support

Updated: Aug. 29, 2020 at 10:37 AM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Red Raider Nation is responding to the announcement that football players will sit out two days of practice this weekend to peacefully protest against police brutality and racial injustice, in solidarity with players of different sports around the country.

Texas Tech University President Lawrence Schovanec said the players made this decision out of respect, acknowledging the protests both within sports and without since the officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Instead of going to practice, players spent their time meeting with local leaders and planning the community clean-up in Butler Park on Saturday.

RELATED STORY: Texas Tech athletes to clean up East Lubbock community during day off from practice

The statement posted by many Red Raider football players Thursday night was brought to the attention of Head Coach Matt Wells and Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt before they went public.

Online public reaction was mixed, with many who opposed the decision calling for players to lose scholarships, contrasted with new waves of support from others who say they developed a newfound appreciation for the players.

RELATED STORY: Red Raider football players ask fans for respect as they join protest

Many coaches and Texas Tech staff spoke up in support, with Coach Wells saying on Twitter: “I stand beside them and with them in support and love.” New Lady Raiders Head Basketball coach Krista Gerlich expressed her support in response to Lady Raider JoNah Johnson, saying, “I will not let them walk alone.”

KCBD caught up with President Schovanec about the University’s response to the student athletes’ decision, as players were leaving a meeting away from the practice field. The team spoke with the President of Texas Tech’s Black Student Association, Arabia Harris, Lubbock community leader AJ McCleod, Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell, and others.

“If anyone could have been in that room and heard the message, I think they would be proud of our student athletes,” President Schovanec said. “They’re doing this out of deeper responsibility to issues in this society and not to be disrespectful, but to show they want to see changes made.”

President Schovanec tells us Chief Mitchell spoke with the players about his expectations of officers in Lubbock, and the pride they can have in the way Lubbock police are trained. Chief Mitchell emphasized the personal qualities he holds as a standard such as empathy and understanding, as well as the professional calls to be public servants and guardians.

“I think that message was very important for our student athletes to know that our police are there to guard them and to serve them,” Schovanec said.

“This is not something they’re doing in the heat of the moment. They feel that we have to make a long term and sustained commitment to try and change certain aspects of society. Where you see people, in the case of George Floyd or the incident in Wisconsin, where there are escalation of situations that result in death and where they see race as a critical part of why those tragedies occur; and Chief of Police Mitchell addressed that, saying that it requires better communication on both sides. He did give words of advice to those student athletes to try and avoid those situations, trying to deescalate those situations that evolve into tragedies.”

The student athletes have put forward a list of action points that Schovanec says reflects issues the campus has been discussing for a few years with campus groups like the Black Students Association.

“The President of the Black Students Association was here to address this group, telling them that we can do more to engage you, to support you and the issues that they’re concerned about; including education, academic offerings, healthcare, community engagement,” Schovanec said. “They made it very clear they want to be part of the community and address some of their concerns.”

Many people who opposed the students’ decision called for the university to take away athletic scholarships of team members who joined the protest, something President Schovanec says will not happen:

“We’re not going to do that. These young men on that football team will make you proud on Saturday and I feel by supporting them, they feel more committed to this community and university knowing that we stand with them. I would ask people to be patient in holding judgement. These are not reckless, disrespectful young men. Their intentions are good for this community and they’re good for the broader society in this country.”

To those who claim this will negatively affect the financial support of Tech Athletics, Schovanec says that is not his concern when it comes to supporting students:

“It’s not uncommon when things happen that people respond by saying, ‘Less giving.’ Some may give more. I don’t believe that should be our concern right now. Our concern right now is not how does this affect the dollar issue, this is about supporting those student athletes and not just those student athletes, but all students at Texas Tech.”

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