Thursday was supposed to be a light day when it came to the world of Georgia football. The Bulldogs had no practice, so it was set to be just a day of exercising and meetings.
But given the state of the country after the events of Kenosha Wi., where police officers shot Jacob Blake seven times, Thursday turned into a lengthy discussion that lasted three and half hours of players sharing their stories and how they felt.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart detailed what the past week has looked like for himself and the Georgia football program. And he encouraged Georgia football fans, alumni and fans to simply show more empathy and listen to what Georgia’s players had to say.
“We didn’t do any football that day. Football wasn’t important,” Smart said on Saturday. “They got to voice their opinions. Emotionally, a lot of our guys are in pain.
“When you hear it, it’s easy to sit back behind a social media site or a social media and post something and have your opinion but until you’ve actually heard guys and the pain they’re going through and the things they feel, you don’t know.”
Smart credited the job Georgia’s Black assistant coaches have done in helping him handle and understand what his players are going through, as he praised running backs coach Dell McGee, wide receivers coach Cortez Hankton, defensive line coach Tray Scott, defensive backs coach Charlton Warren and director of player development Jonas Jennings.
“All our guys are really great assets, but we lean on those guys, and we lean on their experiences, and they’ve done an unbelievable job,” Smart said.
A number of players reached out to Smart following the decision of the NBA players to sit-out playoff games on Wednesday, asking to once again have a dialogue. Smart said that the team had a similar talk earlier in the summer but not since the start of fall camp, which for the Bulldogs was Aug. 17.
On Thursday, Smart, some Georgia players such as Tyson Campbell and Azeez Ojulari and some of Georgia’s assistant coaches released a video speaking out about the need to be better.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) August 28, 2020
“As a person who goes to the University of Georgia, I can use my voice to make change,” Campbell said. “To try to make the world a better place.”
The families of Smart and former Georgia coach Matthew Stafford combined to donate $500,000 to starting a social justice initiative at the University of Georgia.
As for what comes next, Smart put an emphasis on how now it is a time for action after having a dialogue and how the players are going to help lead the way.
“They want the University of Georgia, in terms of the athletic department, to represent them, they want to do things in the community, they want to give back to their communities,” Smart said. They want to make change. They want 100 percent of student-athletes at Georgia to vote.
“They’re issuing the challenges that need to be done and I’m really proud of them for that.”
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart on social justice
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