By Joanna Chadwick
Protests are occurring around the country after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, killing Floyd.
It’s been chaotic in Minneapolis with peaceful protests, riots and looting.
It has also been a time for reflection of several Wichita-area coaches, who coach predominantly black teams — Wichita Northwest football coach Steve Martin, Wichita East boys basketball coach Joe Jackson and Derby boys basketball coach Brett Flory.
Each took to social media to talk about their athletes.
Here’s why they posted the following statements:
NORTHWEST FOOTBALL COACH STEVE MARTIN
After this week of losing one of my former athletes and seeing what is transpiring around the U.S., I felt compelled to say what needed to be said. I wanted my former/current/future players and families to know I am with them in this fight and I wanted to encourage others to speak up for our brothers and sisters.
BOYS BASKETBALL COACH JOE JACKSON
I was literally feeling sick to my stomach after watching the awful George Floyd video, and at first I was stunned by the explosive protests that it prompted. But then, after seeing a post from one of my African American players, I realized that I needed to look within to empathize with something I was failing to comprehend.
NORTHWEST FOOTBALL COACH STEVE MARTIN
I have had a hard time writing this, deleting and revising worrying would this offend someone? At this point I don’t give a shit so here goes!
What has transpired over the last week has been very tough as a coach, parent, friend and as a human being!
Last Thursday a former player of mine was shot! I was very close with this player and his parents. I consider his dad a friend of mine. This young man was a glow of sunshine and woukd give the shirt off his back for anyone! This athlete of mine was not privileged, entitled, rude and definatly did not have an easy upbringing! However that never stopped him to love everyone! When I say everyone I meam everyone! I have seen this kid reach out to those in need, that freshmen that everyone was laughing at, I remember him going out of his way to help! That was Jahbreel! One of my favorite kids of all time! Not because of his abilities but because of what he stood for! Jahbreel was never the best but what he was, was determined! To aspire to be like or better then his older brother in sports, the best in the classroom and just a great human being! I miss him, the world misses him, the community misses him and I will tell you why!
Jahbreel was not afraid to be who he wanted to be! He didn’t care if he knew you or just met you he cared! He was a God fearing HUMAN being who loved, I mean genuinly loved people! His graciousness was unbelievable especially in todays society!
Many of my players are African American males, they have been for the last 12 years in USD 259 at Heights and Northwest. I have all races, religions and creeds on my team! Jahbreel was African American. Hell my coaching staff has 4 African Americans, 2 Mexican Americans and 4 Caucasians! Some of my best friends on this earth are considered “minorities”! Shit my kids best friends, I mean ride or dies are “minorities” I have not ever looked at them differently then my 7 siblings or parents! I consider them family!
I am very disturbed about what has been transpiring everywhere! Disturbed doesn’t quite hit it, HORRIFIED and DISGUSTED hits it a lot better! I see social inequality everyday! I see my peers, friends and players getting treated differently and its ENOUGH! If you don’t think this happens today you are living in a fantasy world! I hate to see what is happening in Minnesota with the riots but to tell you the truth ENOUGH is ENOUGH! If you can sit there and not say its time for REAL change your blind! I believe our friends and fellow HUMAN beings have every right to be absolutely livid how they are getting treated! Hell, the frickin NFL had to pass a bullshit incentive just for hiring an African American Head Coach! We as White Americans (if that is even something) have never felt what they face everyday! Shit my Brother-In-Law is Jewish and so is my Sister and their 2 daughters and they get treated differently by society! So stop! Just stop feeling sorry for yourself and relating to it like its happening to you! For those of you who say rioting isn’t the answer though, what the hell are they supposed to do? Sit there and wait until they are next or maybe its their son or relation next? More violence is not the answer but I am not narrowed minded enough to sit there and say they shouldn’t be doing that! Nothing ever changes for them when it comes to this, so why should they stand there protesting peacefully so they can be ignored! We as Caucasions have to stand up and say it is there! We have to help make a stand! AND I don’t even know where to start! Cause the Lord knows I am not perfect!
For those that want to argue, as a white male, take an African American child with your family to Dillons and see the stares you get! How do I know because it has happened to myself more than once and that is not even a fraction of what our brothers and sisters feel everyday! Its bullshit! People are uncomfortable with skin color and differences! I know a lot of people claim to not be racist but man they have a hard time accepting people different then themselves! Point being people don’t take the time to get to know other people! Especially people that are different then you!
My challenge to you is be like Jahbreel! Shine your goodness on everyone! Truly treat each other like you want to be treated! That is what Jahbreel left us! He was too good to be on this earth! We didn’t deserve him, he was a guide in how to treat people! We all can fight this together if people start sticking up for whats right and not who it favors! To my friends, I love ya! To my competitors, I love ya! If I have never met ya, I love ya! If I have offended ya, I Love ya!
My Mission! Be Like Breel!
MAIZE SOUTH BOYS BASKETBALL COACH JOE JACKSON (Jackson spent the last … years coaching the Wichita East boys team. He resigned this spring and is now at Maize South.)
In light of the recent events in Minnesota — and unfortunately, for the last 400 years — I have reflected on the lessons that the young people I have coached over the years have taught me, and in particular my current group of players. To say that we have a diverse and eclectic group of kids would be an understatement! We have kids from so many different races, family situations, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. that it is mind boggling. Honestly, I think most outsiders would be stunned if they studied the make-up of the kids in our program, given the perception that many seem to have of Derby.
But given that diversity, it is absolutely inspiring to observe our kids interact on a daily basis (at least when we were still all together prior to the pandemic). There is a genuine level of appreciation, acceptance, and RESPECT among those kids in regards to who they are as individuals, where they come from, and what they have been through.
Early each season, we have our “Unity Meeting” where I ask the kids to share at least one thing that they struggle with, and how we as teammates and BROTHERS can help them deal with those situations. What is said in that meeting never leaves the locker room, but it never ceases to amaze me what comes out. And what is even more amazing to me is the feeling of EMPATHY that fills the room while that meeting is going on. These young men naturally have a genuine love, care, and concern for each other, and it is always inspiring to me to witness.
This got me to thinking about something last night as I scrolled through all of the social media posts and news about the heartbreaking murder of George Floyd. The thought that came into my head was this… if the young people I coach can figure out concepts such as MUTUAL RESPECT and EMPATHY FOR OTHERS so well and so naturally, how come it is seemingly impossible for our society at large (made up of supposed ADULTS) to figure it out too?
Not surprisingly, a Twitter post from one of my graduating seniors helped me gain some insight. As a white American who unquestionably (although also unconsciously) has enjoyed the privilege that comes with that for 41 years, it is something I have been blind to.
This senior — an African American young man — posted a video expressing how it isn’t just about one horrific event right now, but it’s about our country never taking the time to develop EMPATHY for what our African American community has dealt with for 400 years. It’s not enough to just pull out a knife that has been used to injure others a few inches and call it “good.” The knife must be completely removed, and then the difficult conversations and actions must be held to HEAL the wound properly! In order for that wound to ever have a chance to heal, the white American community must recognize the severity and depth of the wound that has been inflicted on the African American community, and then do our best to develop the kind of EMPATHY for their situation necessary for true healing to occur.
Putting myself in the shoes of an African American living every day with the threat of irrational hate looming over me each time I step foot outside my home is overwhelming and difficult. Although I know the vast majority of police officers are good human beings who serve in their position the right way, putting myself in the shoes of a parent that must teach my son or daughter about precautions that could potentially be necessary to survive a police encounter — should they meet one like George Floyd did — is even more difficult.
But yet I still feel optimistic, because I know if the young men I coach between the ages of 14 to 18 can find the level of EMPATHY and MUTUAL RESPECT for each other in their hearts that they do, there is absolutely no reason why the rest of us can’t do the same if we collectively set our minds to it! In the end, we will realize that we are all in this thing TOGETHER.