Vanderbilt head football coach Derek Mason is a man of high character, at least that is the opinion of this writer. I don't know Mason on a personal level. We don't hang out and socialize; ours is strictly a professional relationship, which has shown me what I believe about this man's character.
As the Commodores football team returned to the practice field on Wednesday, after a five-day postponement because of "several" players testing positive for COVID-19, Mason resumed his post-practice Zoom conference calls with the media.
While the coach talked football and the return and practice, what he said following those comments is what should make headlines.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about Jacob Blake and what transpired this past weekend. Much like most coaches across the country, I'm sad. I'm tired. And as an African-American male, I want change. This has been hard. We're not just talking about football. We're talking about what was seen on Sunday and what's transpired since. It's hard; it's truly hard.
"Young men get applauded on Saturday (in college football games), and then you see something on Sunday that looks like this, it's extremely tough. These conversations have to be ongoing.
"We could talk a lot about football, but our young men are experiencing a lot. You look at this conference, and 65 to 75 percent of the young men in this conference look like me who are playing this game. We've got to continue to make sure from a wellness standpoint that we are not just talking about the ball, but that we're talking about the things that are going on. That's part of the experience, too.
"You talk about living life (during the COVID-19 pandemic), but that's what they're experiencing, and that's what they're seeing. To the Blake family from us, blessings and salutations."
Almost immediately after other outlets reported his comments, Mason began drawing criticism on social media from some who suggested he should leave coaching and take up social activism.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and to share them openly. It's part of what this nation was built on. However, social media has created a platform wherein people feel secure behind a screen name with anonymity to say things they wouldn't dare begin to utter in the face of another human.
There are serious issues, with severe consequences going on in the world around us, even if we choose to ignore them and remain in our worlds.
What Mason said didn't dive off a cliff into left or rightism, it merely spoke of what he and others of his color are feeling.
He should be applauded for that, even by those who might see things differently.