A comment from Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians about protests against the shooting of Jacob Blake has led to a back-and-forth with NFL Players Association executive directory DeMaurice Smith.
On Thursday, Arians told reporters after practice that he held a team meeting in which he challenged players to commit to actions beyond protesting when addressing social issues like racial inequality. One quote in particular from Arians would later make its way to many headlines:
“Protesting doesn’t do crap in my opinion. I’ve been seeing it since 1968.”
The comment was part of a larger quote in which he said “I don’t know that protest is an action.” and that he would beg players “to take action, find a cause and either support it financially or do something to change the situation.”
DeMaurice Smith objects to Bruce Arians on protests
The headlines featuring Arian’s comment soon caught the attention of Smith, who quote-tweeted one such story and said the coach was “woefully misinformed about the history of protest both within sports and in America.” He included pictures of civil rights hero John Lewis to make his point.
When asked about the response on Friday, Arians doubled down and implied his own history on social issues is longer than Smith’s.
Asked after Friday morning’s Bucs scrimmage about Smith’s tweet, Arians responded, “Yeah, I have a history, and it might be a little longer than his.”
As the Times recounted, that history includes Arians being the first white Virginia Tech player to room with a Black teammate when has was a quarterback at the school.
Arians has also been arguably the NFL’s best coach when it comes to diversity on his staff. All three of his coordinators — offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong — are Black (a first in NFL history), as is his assistant head coach Harold Goodwin. He was also the first to hire two female assistant coaches in defensive line assistant Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar.
Often outspoken about the fight against inequality, Arians made similar comments about protests and statements when the sports world was reacting to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, all of which he called murders:
“I love the fact that people are upset and raising their voices, but don’t stop,” Arians said. “It’s one thing to march, and protest, but it’s another thing to take action. When the protesting is over, I would urge everybody to take action. Do something positive to help the situation. Don’t just go back to being silent, because then it’s going to happen again.”
Many players have done more than just protesting, with players and teams donating to social justice causes in the wake of Floyd’s death. The NFL itself has also announced it will spend $250 million to combat systemic racism over the next 10 years as part of a deal with The Players Coalition.
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