As the head coach of San Diego State football, a team on which approximately 50% of the players are black, a whole team whose players are racially, socially and economically diverse, Brady Hoke is not just “sticking to sports.” He’s not just sticking to football, he’s not ignoring what’s happening in America.
“As a coach, you always have a leadership role and an influencer role, and we have a bunch of 18- to 20-year-old young men, and we have a privilege to help them grow, and I hate that we have to grow through what happened, but we’ve got to help them grow and bring ourselves together,” Hoke told NBC 7.
In an effort to bring players and coaches together, and to learn more about the factors behind the racial and social unrest that has swept the country since the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Coach Hoke had Rock Church pastor Miles McPherson virtually meet with his team last Friday.
“Miles had a great message, then he took questions," Hoke said. "Our team was with him for about an hour and a half, talking about the issues and talking about what can we do to help, to help the injustice that’s been done,” Hoke said.
The Aztec team decided first and foremost that they have to be united, be together as one. Second, they realized they need to be out front, using their platform as San Diego State football players and coaches to lead the conversation on racial inequality.
“Our players know that this is tragic," Hoke said. "We can’t let these things happen. We have to have communication. That’s got to be something team-wise, county-wise and country-wise. Those conversations need to happen. We can’t hide from anything.”
Of course, in 2016 then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Collin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the National Anthem before NFL games to raise awareness about social injustice, and he was soon out the NFL.
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When asked if he would be OK with his players expressing support, joining in the protests or organizing an event as a team, Coach Hoke responded:
“For sure," Hoke replied. "If they want to be involved and be involved in the protest and have their chance to speak, I think they should do that. I know that white, black, Polynesian, Asian, Hispanic -- because we have all on our football team -- I think they would stand up for each other as brothers.”
The San Diego State football team is much more than “just a football team.”