“What can I do to create change?”
This simple question was posed to the West Virginia football team a few weeks ago by its head coach, Neal Brown. Brown recognized that his team, like so many others across the country right now, had a desire to create change in America.
Senior receiver T.J. Simmons explained that desire when talking to reporters two weeks ago.
“On behalf of the West Virginia football team, our thoughts and prayers go out to Jacob Blake and his family,” Simmons started. “Everybody knows the incident that went down this past week and we just wanted to say we want change in this world and the WVU football team is one team who’s promoting change and we’re trying to figure out things that we can do to push for change in this county.”
Just before Simmons made this statement is when Brown issued his challenge.
“Coach Brown proposed a question to us just yesterday and said ‘what can I do to create change?’. One thing that I wrote down was to use my platform, to use my voice to spread the word,” Simmons said. “Just being who I am I realized that I have a big platform and a lot of people listen to what I say.”
On Tuesday, Brown explained where that challenge came from.
“That challenge came directly from Tony Dungy, who had put out a tweet that kind of really spoke to how I was feeling,” Brown told reporters.
I applaud the NBA players for using their unified voice to make a statement about social justice. They showed everyone this is not about the flag or the military. Now all of us have to figure out what we can do to make things better-to find solutions. That’s the challenge now! pic.twitter.com/XUXAGcZzH4
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) August 27, 2020
“That was a challenge to myself, to our staff and to our players,” Brown explained. “We can’t just make a statement on social media…you actually have to do actions.”
Brown said he wanted to let his players know that any change they wanted to create needed to start small.
“To me, it always starts inward and you work outward,” Brown explained. “From your own heart, it goes to your campus, then it goes to your community, then it goes to your state and then nationally, so on, so on. We just talked about ‘what are small changes that we can do right now, within yourself, within our campus, within our community?’.”
Throughout the summer, Brown said the team has been having discussions about race and equality in America and those topics always revolve around three ideas.
“We focus on three topics – empathy, education and leadership. Everything that we’re doing on anything from social injustice…those are the three topics, from the summer to this fall, that we’re locked in on,” Brown said. “This is all player-driven, I think that’s really important. It’s driven by the players and the things that we are going to do are player-driven.”
Players have taken Brown’s challenge and ran with it. In the weeks since issuing the challenge, players have organized a march through Morgantown, Dante Stills showed a ‘BLM’ helmet sticker and just today center Chase Behrndt posted a video from the WVU Football Social Action Group.