It's a safe bet that no one woke up on Monday morning expecting for the day's biggest sports news to come from Stillwater.
But then a photo surfaced of Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy wearing an OAN shirt.
Gundy's decision to represent OAN, a far-right cable news network, drew immediate backlash. Many of his own current and former players decried his wardrobe selection on Twitter, and implied that the program has descended into a fundamentally problematic state under Gundy's leadership. But the most significant statement came from Cowboys star running back Chuba Hubbard.
Hubbard, who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season and is widely considered the best running back in college football, tweeted that he would not attend any football activities for Oklahoma State "until there is CHANGE."
As their rivals from up north draw headlines, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione and head coach Lincoln Riley haven't publicly commented on the outcry. However, over the past few weeks, both men have emphasized the Sooners' commitment to fomenting change.
"We have to work both individually and as a group," Castiglione said last week. "Internally we can do more. The programs that we’ve had in place for several years can be even more robust. We’ve had conversations. We’ve had programs. We have focused on hiring practices."
If the myriad statements from current and former OSU athletes are to be believed, the mission isn't the same in Stillwater. Perhaps the most damning indictment on Gundy came via a tweet from Patrick Macon, a former Oklahoma State linebacker who eventually transferred to South Florida. Macon had publicly castigated Gundy's program on Twitter Monday morning... before the photo went public.
Like Castiglione, Riley, who owns a 3-0 record against Gundy since taking over as the Sooners' head coach in 2017, had also fielded questions on inclusivity from reporters in his most recent press conference.
"I really think that a basic [step] is getting to know our friends and colleagues and student-athletes on a better level," he said. "That starts with putting time in place to do that. I think that is one of the steps that’s going to lead to creating the action. We’ll continue to talk more about this internally, but also publicly, what we plan to do going forward."
Riley is fully aware that his platform places him under added scrutiny, and despite his cool demeanor, even he's not entirely sure how to respond at times.
"Yeah, it’s a tricky question," he admitted. "People’s emotions are so high about this right now, regardless of what side of the argument you’re on... It’s like throwing a match on gasoline right now."
Gundy will no doubt top the sporting headlines in the days to come, and as vocal as Riley has been throughout this tumultuous season of time, it may not be long before he addresses the issue publicly. One way or another, his words from a June 3 presser ring as true today as ever.
"I understand we live in a country where you’re able to believe what you want to believe and able to express that," Riley acknowledged. "Certainly, respect everybody’s opinions and understand it’s probably a fantasy to think that we would all think or believe one way ever... I would hope that regardless of what side of the argument that somebody is on, that we could get to that place of mutual respect."
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