A day after sophomore safety Kerry Martin brought accusations of mistreatment and racism against defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, West Virginia head coach Neal Brown spoke virtually to the media Wednesday afternoon.
As Brown said in his statement Tuesday night, he is choosing to remain silent on the matter until the university’s investigation of the matter is complete. During Wednesday’s call, however, Brown did offer strong words about how he wants to support the players in his program.
“I care deeply about everyone involved, I care deeply about everyone in our program,” Brown said. “We have and will continue to build a culture that’s relationship-driven.”
Brown said there is an open policy at WVU for players to talk about anything they want and it is something Brown has pushed for and supported.
“I think you continue to learn, continue to get feedback and if that’s an area where we need to grow, then we need to grow. I feel confident in being able to talk,” Brown said. “Our guys have a voice I respect that voice, that’s their right.”
Brown’s support for his players goes beyond just what he says or puts out in the media, however. Earlier this month, Brown was spotted at a Black Lives Matter protest held in downtown Morgantown. Brown said he felt it was important for him to be there with his player, so they would know that he supports them. Brown estimated that 10-20 WVU football players were at the protest he attended.
“Racism, social injustice are major issues in our society. I support our players, I support the black lives matter, I didn’t want to be the story (at the protest), but it’s important for me to support our players,” Brown said. “We want to be a part of change and so I thought it was important for me to be downtown with them and support our players.”
Strong WVU presence in today's peaceful protest in downtown Morgantown:
Oscar Tshiebwe, Gabe Osabuohien, Larry Harrison, Dante Stills, Jeffrey Pooler, John Flowers, Neal Brown among those in attendance: pic.twitter.com/G3DJ2mcv6W
— Joe Brocato (@joebrowvm) June 2, 2020
In May, Brown also made it a point to focus on the mental health of his players as the spread of coronavirus had canceled Spring practices, pushed the team apart physically and impacted the nation.
“I’m more worried right now about our players’ mental well-being, rather than their physical well-being, I really am,” Brown said at the time.
Through the coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest about racism and injustice, a pair of positive COVID-19 cases on his team and now Martin’s accusations, Brown said the past few months have been “difficult” and “complex” times that he is trying to learn from.
“It’s complex times and you’re going into really new territory at all points,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, you can’t have a plan for everything and so we’re learning as we’re going, trying to be proactive rather than reactive. It’s a difficult time, I think there’s a lot of challenging and difficult times right now in a lot of different professions.”