Coppin State head basketball coach Michael Grant is sending a destructive message to his players.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, in the wake of civil disobedience that followed the death of Freddie Gray last month in Baltimore, Grant spoke candidly about how the uprising has impacted the basketball program.
According to Grant, two recruits withdrew their commitments to the university.
Grant told the Globe how he sent text messages to his players to ensure they were safe in the midst of the uprisings.
About 130 Baltimore police officers were injured, 200 people were jailed and there was all that property damage.
“We had a couple of players who called and reached out and said that they don’t want to be here in Baltimore,” Grant said. “With all the things that were going on, so it’s not only our programs but it hurt a couple of other teams whose recruits have called and said they’re not coming. At the same time, we want guys that want to be here, want to be part of what we’re doing.
“That’s life. What we tried to explain to them is that it could happen anywhere. You have to be prepared for anything. You never know what life is going to bring.”
The basketball program losing a few recruits is only a minor inconvenience compared to the death of an armed black man reportedly at the hands of police. Or the inconvenience of having to fight for humanity, as the people the people of Baltimore has done.
Gary Washburn, the author of the piece, summed up Grant’s mentality on the practice of dissent as something that should be executed without much ruckus.
Grant and other coaches have to stress to their players to question authority or the system in a positive manner.
“A lot of it comes with upbringing and not putting themselves in situations that are negative when people are tearing up things and doing [negative] things,” Grant said. “We have a pretty good hold on our guys, when they see trouble, they need to go the opposite way. Do you want to go to jail? Or spend the rest of your life with a record? Or do you want to try to walk away from this situation and look at the bigger picture that you’re here to play college basketball and here to graduate?
“But anything they see positive, want to be part of a positive march, then I think that’s fine. It takes a lot of talking to these kids to be able to walk away from things.”
Maybe Grant isn’t aware, but he just read verbatim straight from the respectively politics playbook.
How do historically oppressed people question authority in a “positive matter,” as Grant and these unnamed coaches want?
Just a causal observation of history would easily reveal that the marginalized act anything but the way Grant has surmised in his own mind as proper in creating systematic change.
There was the Boston Tea Party. The Revolutionary War. The slave revolts. Arab Spring.
Grant wanted them to march, vote, pray, and ask nicely, it seems.
Martin Luther King Jr., the man the majority population loves to quote every time black folks get fed up with their conditions, marched and prayed during the Civil Rights Movement.
He ended up with a bullet in his neck.
If only black people voted, things would get better.
Today, we have more Black elected officials in the United States than at any point in American history.
Barack Obama, a black man, is President of the United States.
Yet, there is still black repression.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a black woman, went on national TV and called people who look like her “thugs”, not the people who were responsible for creating the madness she and the city had to deal with.
Certainly, if the poor and disenfranchised let their voices be heard without all the looting, riots, and destroying “their own neighborhoods,” eventually the state would wise up and grant their hearts desire.
Those neighborhoods that were destroyed by the uprising were already crumbling and decaying at the hands of elected officials.
They, however, were not called thugs on TV by any mayor for delivering damaging political fires.
Cable network reporters were wondering why people would burn down the area CVS, one of the main sources of food for the residents.
Did anyone care to ask why CVS, not a grocery store, provided sustenance?
In 2015, black people have to walk around holding signs on the streets of America reminding the world their lives matter.
Grant and others are in complete denial of how the system works so relentlessly against them that using non-threatening measures will not suffice.
To teach those young men that the only way to fight a violent force is to not consider violence is tone deaf.
And to couple that with “you’re here to play basketball” rhetoric only creates a disconnect that results in apathy for people who are impacted by state-sponsored plights in the first place.
Young black men and women are being killed by the state. There is still tremendous poverty and mass incarceration. And there is a call for peace.
Stay out of jail, Grant warns, even though many a great dissenters spent days, weeks, months and years in jail fighting for their own humanity to be recognized.
“Because if you get caught by the law, nine times out of 10, we’re not going to be able to help you,” Grant said.
And we wonder if there will be more Freddie Grays.