As the nationwide fallout from George Floyd’s death continues to dominate headlines, Lincoln Riley isn’t keeping quiet.
In a virtual Wednesday press conference, the Oklahoma head coach wasn’t primarily fielding questions about football. But football isn’t the first thing on his mind - or anyone’s - at the moment.
“I definitely stand with my players,” he said. “And it’s not just because they’re my players; it’s a fundamental belief. I was very fortunate, raised in a household that taught me that no one is better than anybody else because of the color of their skin.”
Riley had tweeted in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign on May 31, expressing that he’s “committed to being a part of the change.” He said that racism is an issue he feels personally compelled to speak out on, and that's not solely due to his status.
“Honestly, if the players ask me to do something, that’s great, but it’s something that I would do regardless [of whether] I was a football coach or not,” Riley stated.
The Sooners head coach also said he wouldn’t rule out a more tangible show of solidarity in the future.
“I don’t think anything would be off the table as far as a protest or as far as a call for equality, as long as it’s done tastefully… and peacefully,” he continued.
“My players know who I am; they know what I stand for. They know my beliefs; we’ve had opportunities to discuss that as a team several times. We always try to keep those lines of communication open. It’s something I personally believe in.”
Riley’s first year on the Sooner staff was 2015, the same year that the SAE incident rocked Oklahoma’s campus and eventually led to the dissolution of the fraternity. Riley expressed that he admired Bob Stoops’ course of action in the wake of the incident.
“I think you grow from it as a coach, as a leader,” Riley said. “There’s certainly no manuals for this. It’s much different than calling a play or scheduling a practice… I’ve always been impressed with how Coach Stoops and that group handled the incident in 2015.”
Five years later, Riley is now the head man in Norman, doing everything he can to foment change and foster peace in the midst of nationwide turmoil.
“I’ve seen it said a lot of places - all lives do matter,” he said. “But the incidents here, all the different things that have gone on between law enforcement and specifically black males, have highlighted that all lives can’t matter until black lives do too.”
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