Gators Head Coach Dan Mullen Releases Statement on Nation's Current Events

Zach Goodall

While the nation now wakes up daily to protests, riots, and cries for help to better serve African Americans in the face of police brutality, leading figures in sports have begun to come out and publicly condemn acts of racism in the country.

Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen is one of them. He released a short statement on Sunday evening with his views on the matter while pledging support to his team and staff to use their voices, also making note of the global coronavirus pandemic that is still going on.

"Together. I stand in unison with [University of Florida] president [Kent] Fuchs and former players, coaches, and all others that have used their voice to condemn racism and oppression," said Mullen. 

"During these difficult times, we need unity, compassion and a love for each other more than ever. As we slowly return to the freedoms in our daily lives from this global pandemic, my hope is that we can work together towards a society with freedom, opportunity and social justice for all."

Some members of Florida's current coaching staff have been vocal as of late on social media to express their concerns in the wake of George Floyd's death last Monday in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd was pinned to the ground by a police officer with his knee, and held there for about nine minutes before taking his last breath after stating "I can't breathe".

The primary officer involved in the situation, Derek Chauvin, has been fired by the Minneapolis police department and was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Friday, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

Floyd's death, one of a countless amount of unjust killings of African Americans by law enforcement in recent years, sparked outrage three months following the killing of Georgia man and African American Ahmaud Arbery. As Arbery went on a run in February in a neighborhood near Brunswick, two white males - George, a former member of law enforcement, and his son Travis - approached Arbery from their truck under suspicion that he was connected to local theft in previous months. 

While no connection was actually made that suggests Arbery was a culprit, a struggle ensued as Travis McMichael pulled a shotgun and shot Arbery three times before he succumbed. No arrests were made until last month, 74 days later, when a video of the incident surfaced of the entire incident and went viral. Both have now been charged with felony murder and aggravated assault, and the videographer - William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. - has also been charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Although the country has been facing a crisis in the coronavirus pandemic that led to a near-nationwide stay-at-home order from state governments and has taken the lives of over 104,000 Americans, protests began in response to the two killings which has led to mass hysteria. In response to looting and potential outbreaks in violence, the United States National Guard has been deployed in at least 21 states, according to Al Jazeera.

Perhaps, no Florida coach has used their social platform more in the past few days than defensive line coach David Turner. The second-year assistant has condemned violence and rioting, but has made a clear message that African Americans deserve better treatment within U.S. borders.

A peaceful protest took place on Saturday in Gainesville (Fla.), where protesters of all backgrounds and skin color took to the streets and marched in solidarity. Following a march from Depot Park to Bo Diddley Plaza for a speech in the heart of downtown, some protesters continued north to protest the Gainesville police station while others remained on Main Street. 

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Dozens gather in protest at the Gainesville Police Department on Saturday, May 30th, 2020. Photo source: Ethan Marks, local resident.

Police arrested William J. Connelly on the scene, a middle-aged white male who drove through the crowd and pulled out a gun. He has since been charged with six counts of aggravated assault.

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