On Friday, Aug. 28, the LSU football team held a march on campus in protest of the ongoing epidemic of police brutality and systemic racism in America.
Players spoke with Head Coach Ed Orgeron and Interim President Tom Galligan about how they've been individually affected by racism to encourage an open dialogue on race within the ranks of the administration.
The march was timely, coming at the heels of a summer of Black Lives Matter protests organized to reckon with the racist abuse committed daily by American police.
Only five days before the march, police in Kenosha, WI, shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, seven times in the back at point-blank range. Two days later, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a white supremacist and Blue Lives Matter supporter, fatally shot two Kenosha protestors.
With a primarily Black lineup, our University's football team has a clear stake in ensuring racial equality for its players and the campus as a whole. When I first heard of their march, however, I dismissed it. After everything that had already happened this summer, I told myself the public was already well aware of the racial injustices plaguing our country.
The march was a good gesture, but not one I predicted would result in real change. At the time I felt that in order to truly make a difference the team should have made specific demands and refused to play until it received what it wanted.
Then, on Sept. 10, a stadium booed the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans when team members linked arms during a moment of silence dedicated to fighting injustice.
I was shocked. Evidently I had overestimated the social awareness of the average football fan if even this most basic demonstration of solidarity had elicited such a negative response.
I realize now that for many fans, the march was the first time they were seeing familiar names and faces attached to a Black Lives Matter protest. Likewise, for the athletes who participated, it was a solid first step in creating sustainable change for Black students, faculty and staff members at the University.
Coach O himself said the “things that [he] heard about [on the day of the march]...[he] never knew before.” Given this reaction, the players clearly made an impact on the administration, the full scope of which may not yet be known to the general public.
I am far from being the University’s No.1 football fan, but even I recognize the team's outsized authority on campus. When a star like JaCoby Stevens marches on the University, people listen.
Our football team is just a micro-sector of the American public — but it's one with huge visibility among a generally conservative fanbase. No matter how cynically I downplayed it at first, the march was a necessary first step towards creating lasting social consciousness in the locker room, across campus and among the fanbase as a whole.
Not only that but it was a reminder of the University's racist streak, and the progress that still needs to be made; thanks to the work of leaders like Stevens, Andre Anthony and their teammates, I have hope that change is imminent.
Cécile Girard is a 20-year-old psychology junior from Lake Charles.