Grambling State University is, unfortunately, no stranger to the tentacles of gun violence that have devastated so many.
This past week, a pair of high-profile shootings occurred within the confines of its campus that resulted in injury and death.
One person was killed and seven others were wounded after gunfire broke out at a homecoming event at Grambling. That incident occurred just days after a 16-year-old was injured and a student died in a shooting on the university’s campus.
Since 2015, there have been a total of 17 shootings at Grambling State, according to media reports. Students, alums, and school administrators have expressed frustration and concern over the inflection of violence impacting the campus.
This reality makes it a bit disappointing that Grambling State football coach Broderick Fobbs decided to publicly stick to sports when ask about the series of disheartening events that led to the cancellation of classes Monday and Tuesday in addition to a campus-wide curfew in an attempt to stifle violence believed caused by non-students.
“I mean, right now, the focus is on the game,” said Fobbs in response to a question by News-Star sports writer Ethan Sands regarding the homecoming week shootings. “We played well. Texas Southern came to play. They made some plays also, but at the end of the day it was really good to see us come out and play Grambling Tiger football.”
A college football coach’s first priority is to be engaged with matters related to the team. That’s what they get paid to devote their time and energies toward. It is understood.
But on some occasions like this one — where a campus is shaken, one of the most important and recognizable figures associated with it shouldn’t be silent.
Immediately pivoting to football when the university is trying to recover from yet another instance of violence was a lost opportunity for Fobbs to offer condolences to the victims and further endear himself to the Grambling community.
It’s not the first time Fobbs has confronted this topic. In 2017, he spoke thoughtfully in the wake of a campus shooting that left two young men dead. He did it again in 2018 when then-Grambling State football player Darrell Clark and his younger brother were shot in New Orleans.
Why was this circumstance different since the events took place so close to home? Why did Fobbs — at least in that moment — choose to ignore this? Some might argue it isn’t his responsibility or that words alone — even from the head coach of a prominent HBCU football team — will do much to solve the systemic issue of gun violence.
But words — regardless of the impact we think they do, or do not have from a public figure, matter.
Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders, who isn’t shy about being candid on just about anything, used his platform after the team’s homecoming game, to speak out against the barrage of homicides in Jackson.
“We have to stop the violence,” said Sanders. “If we can come in here with over 50,000 people and reside with one another, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and whatever, and cheer for one purpose just to see a football game — if we can cosign with one another — we should be able to do the same thing in the streets.”
“I am challenging everyone in Jackson right now; we have to stop the killing.”
This comparison is not meant to pit Fobbs and Sanders against each other or suggest that Fobbs is apathetic. It’s clear that Fobbs has demonstrated the willingness to lend his voice to these matters.
The expectation, in this case, is that Fobbs — a respected person within Grambling — would have given an answer that directly spoke to the current state of affairs his alma mater faces.