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Pittsburgh Coach Jeff Capel ‘Passionate’ for Change in the Aftermath of George Floyd Killing

Capel said it's important to hear white voices speaking out on social injustice.

In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, everyone from Michael Jordan to NBA commissioner Adam Silver to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken out to address racial inequalities and police brutality, and offer condolences to Floyd’s family.

That support has also been prevalent in the college basketball world, where Pittsburgh head coach Jeff Capel has been one of the most outspoken voices.

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“This is something that I’m passionate about,” Capel said. “Basic human rights for every person walking this earth, especially for black people. Over so many years we have been denied basic human rights; the way that we have been treated, whether it’s physically, mentally, in opportunities and things like that.”

Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after being pinned beneath police officers, one of whom kneeled on his neck, as he was detained. Floyd repeatedly told the officers that he couldn’t breathe. The officer who kneeled, Derek Chauvin, was later fired and arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter; the other three officers involved have been fired but not arrested.

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Capel said that he considers himself “one of the lucky ones” who hasn’t experienced injustice at the hands of a police officer.

“I’m very lucky about that because I know how I am,” Capel said. “I have a problem with the way that I’m talked to, and I cringe to think of myself in that situation. But one of the things that I talked to my team about is that you have to get home; it’s not being soft, it’s not being weak. For me, I have three kids I have to get home to. If you’re in these situations you have to figure out how to get home. That’s the reality for us as black people, and that’s something that other races don’t have to go through.”

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Capel said that while it’s important for white college basketball coaches to speak out, it’s “not just white coaches.”

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky’s John Calipari, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and others have all released statements condemning racism and calling for an end to social injustice.

“I do think it’s incredibly important to hear white voices, and for them to hear and to feel our pain,” Capel said. “What I think we have to be careful of is judging by what people do on social media. I absolutely do think that there needs to be a united front. I think white people need to listen and then step to the forefront and help to correct this.”