Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley spoke to local media yesterday first the time since both announcing that OU would open their athletic facilities on July 1st – and since the protests around the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Those two topics were going to be the large majority of the discussion, and Lincoln in both cases stuck to what he believes to be the best path to success.
Opening Facilities July 1st
Oklahoma is a school taking a much slower approach to returning to activities during the COVID-19 pandemic than most.
While some players will come to campus around the middle of June, the majority of the team won’t even get to Norman until the end of the month, where they will then be tested before beginning any workouts.
When Riley said that trying to come back to action June 1st was “ridiculous,” it raised some eyebrows around the country – and the Big 12 allowing some schools to return June 15th seemingly put Oklahoma in a bit of a corner where they either had to come back later than other schools, or go a little bit against what Lincoln had said previously.
They wisely chose to stick to their guns and not have athletes return until July 1st, which is a decision that Riley said yesterday was made even before the Big 12 announced its decision.
“We made the decision that we were going to bring our players back in the neighborhood of July 1st several weeks ago,” Riley said. “This was made well before the Big 12 made a decision or any other league made a decision…we knew what we were going to do.”
Not that I expected Lincoln and Oklahoma to go back on a decision they pretty recently announced, but it is still good to here some of the rationale behind it and how long ago OU had been planning a July 1st return.
As I said back when it was announced, taking a slow and steady approach is a wise way to go. This is an unusual offseason and a time in sports with the pandemic, the more time you can wait things out before starting back up the better – which is precisely how Riley sees it.
Stands with Players in Protests
The death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis has rocked the country to its core, with protests going on in all 50 states around the country and even in countries abroad.
Riley has offered his support to the Black Lives Matter movement and said he would stick by his players in whatever avenue they choose to protest.
“We don’t believe in holding our guys back from having the ability to speak their minds and be involved in a protest…as long as it is done peacefully, it’s done tastefully and well thought out with good intentions,” said Riley.
Lincoln went on to say this has been one of his prouder moments as a coach in seeing how the players have responded to this time.
OU football players have a big platform, obviously, in the state of Oklahoma. About as big of a platform as an 18-21 year old person could possibly have.
If there is something they strongly believe in, Riley wants them to speak their mind on it and try to create change – which is not surprising to hear from him as Lincoln has always come across as a coach understanding of the mindset of his players.
Perhaps being a younger coach, just 36 years old, helps with that – but it is mostly rooted in Lincoln being a guy who gets it.
Lincoln was also asked about offering his support to the Black Lives Matter movement, he responded in this way:
“All lives can’t matter until black lives do too, and on an equal playing field,” Riley said. “That was my inner belief, that is not something that is done because I coach a football team that has a lot of young, black males on it or has staff that has black males on it…it’s having been on football teams and have been in those locker rooms – I have seen how awesome it can be when everybody takes an approach of we are all on the same playing field and we’re all equal and how beautiful that is.”
Riley articulated himself well, and did what he can to try and get across his thoughts on the subject. It is an understandably sensitive time in the country, but it is hard to imagine anyone having much of a bone to pick with the way Lincoln handled himself in these comments.
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