The UK football team has restarted practice as of last week, and was scheduled to hit the field together once again on Thursday. Instead, in a move of solidarity, the team decided to walk out of practice to protest recent events of social injustice towards African Americans.
Kentucky linemen Josh Paschal and Luke Fortner, who are part of the team’s unity group, met with the media to discuss the protest.
In the opening statement, Paschal delivered a unifying message:
“We decided to use this time that we’ve been given today to address something that’s more important than football,” Paschal said. “As a Power 5 football team, we come from all different backgrounds, and have come together to turn awareness into action. In the recent events involving police brutality, the team stands together knowing that there’s a problem in this country.”
”Playing for Coach (Mark) Stoops, mean that we have a players coach. We have a coach that empathizes, and hurts with us, while having our best interest at mind and heart. The administration at the university has been great about listening and offering any help that they can.”
Paschal later continued:
”Our team has been a prime example of how our community should be. We may have different beliefs or values, but we work together for one goal. We’ve never had a problem with this team splitting with this issue because we are a brotherhood, and we know that we are more than athletes, because on this team we are treated as such. This is how we want others to see us as well.”
Luke Fortner then followed Paschal with a statement also emphasizing unity, and the plan for a consistent message:
”This isn’t an issue for just our black teammates. It’s an issue that involves all of our players, and should involve all of our fans and community. We realize that as athletes we have a platform, and we’ve decided as a team that we’re gonna use this platform for positive change.”
”And what does this mean? It means that we’re not just gonna tweet a hashtag. We plan on continuing our volunteer service, but we plan on taking an emphasis on youth minorities in the community. We plan on opening dialogue with the Lexington police, and inviting an open conversation. We plan on making this a consistent effort, not something that dies down in just a week.”
The protest was an incredibly powerful move in the midst of a challenging time in our country.