Getting a T

We have spoken in this space and on the radio about the age of empowerment of college athletes.

Be it name, image and likeness issues. Be it the plain truth that has been spoken by the university leaders that without football many athletic departments will not be sustainable. (That kind of admittance of value was unprecedented, especially from college presidents and ADs.)

And be it the socially charged times all around us — combined with the reach of social media — in a college football world in which the unpaid labor is 70 percent black and the millionaire coaches are more than 90 percent white.

That last world was where Chuma Hubbard, the Oklahoma State running back, put his mullet-fashioning head coach Mike Gundy into the "RACIST" prism Monday afternoon.

Hubbard tweeted "I will not stand for this This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society and it's unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE." That head-turner generated 24,000 comments and more than 100,000 likes, and that was before I went to bed Monday night.

Gundy's offense? He was photographed wearing a T-shirt with a conservative news network on it.

That's it. Period. And Hubbard, OSU's best player last year, had kittens.

In previous eras when prima donnas and attention hounds hounded attention and donned primas (whatever that is), this would have been guffawed and dismissed. It also never would have seen the light of day.

There are a lot of angles to this, and they have myriad levels of importance and uncertainty.

First, I can't overstate how short-sighted this is for Hubbard in particular and potentially long-term damaging for the movement.

Because demanding change because of where Mike Gundy gets his news is the type of action that would have been acceptable in the harsh divide of full-blown racist America. 

Side story: In the late 1960s, several black players on Idaho's football team asked to wear black armbands in a game against BYU, which at the time had serious racial issues on campus and within its program. The Idaho coach's answer: You are all cut.

Gundy was pushed to the edge for a T-shirt before he and Hubbard posted a ham-handed video that stopped just short of Gundy and Hubbard locking arms and singing We Are the World.

(Yes, I know the words. Who doesn't? There comes a time when we heed a certain call, when the world must come together as one. There are people dying, and it's time to lend a hand Everybody straight to the chorus We are the world, we are the children; We are the ones who make a brighter day so lets start giving; There's a choice we're making We're saving our own lives; It's true we make a better day just you and me. Good times. Did you know that the video from 1985 a) has been viewed almost 12 billion times, and b) is 35 years old and Willie Nelson looks old in THAT video already. Wowser. Where were we?) 

Here's Gundy's statements in the video: ""In light of today's tweet with the T-shirt I was wearing, I met with some players and realize it's a very sensitive issue with what's going on in today's society. We had a great meeting. It made me aware of some things that players feel like could make our organization and our culture even better than it is here at Oklahoma State. I'm looking forward to making some changes, and it starts at the top with me. And we've got good days ahead."

Here was Hubbard's part in the video: "I'll start off by first saying that I went about it the wrong way by tweeting. I'm not someone that has to tweet something to make change. I should have went to him as a man. I'm more about action. That was bad on my part. From now on, we're gonna focus on bringing change. And that's the most important thing."

As for potentially damaging, well, I think we can all agree that white America has never been listening more, participating more and more willing to accept change that right now.

And the best returning running back in college football demands change because of a T-shirt? If we're going to draw the line on a freebie TV station T-shirt, well, then we are going to get to the end of this tumultuous time with more problems than answers, and maybe even more divided than before all of this began.

Some of Hubbard's teammates also offered support. This from all-Big-12 linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga: "By voicing our opinion we are happy to have came to a conclusion and opened a gateway to create some serious CHANGE around Oklahoma State. My teammates and I have all agreed we will go ahead and resume all workouts and activities. We're all in this together"

Hey, there could be a rattlesnake's nest worth of issues under Gundy's regime. He comes off as a bully and a loudmouth. (Heck, Dabo comes off as a community preacher at the local Independent Ark of the Covenant Community Church of Our Lord and Assembly Center, off Due West Highway 12 right next to the Dollar General but who knows the issues he has at Clemson.)  

It's a T-shirt. A T-shirt and it's also a scary place if either side is going to tell any of us which media we can consume and which media is offensive.

What's next, telling the media what they can and can't report? 


Macro sense


In the big-picture-sense, misuse of this newfound power for the college athlete specifically and the equality movement in general will expand the divide more than bridge it. So now more than ever before, leadership and specific goals from the disenfranchised has never been more important.

Because among the multitude of emails I got during the Hubbard aftermath, two points stuck out:

> This will galvanize Trump supporters;

> What can white people say or think that is not offensive?

The first one is a geo-political position that I have heard multiple times, which on its face actually offers the hidden assertion that Trump supporters have racial biases to start with. I don 't believe that and I am not willing to paint with the racist brush across the side about any group this side of the KKK, be them Trump voters, OANN watchers, Black Panthers or disgruntled Big 12 running backs.

Side note: If communities continue to support and actually succeed with the "defund the police" movement, friends, know this: THAT will assuredly move the rural white vote out in droves and Trump will win in a landslide, in my opinion. The most reliable way to appeal to voters is to address their wallets; the most powerful way to appeal to voters is to play on their fear, and defunded police departments scare the Hell out of me. And that's coming from someone who is looking for any reason to vote for someone else. 

As for what white people can say or think in this time, well, I'm not qualified to say that because clearly I am white.

But there are a couple of macro themes I think are important that Hubbard's Tweet made me ponder for a while Monday night 

> First, the dishonesty about these issues is damaging in the moment and potentially devastating for the cause. There is only one story being told in this conversation, especially from those in the sports world, and that's the story of the protestors.

Not only is that dishonest and counterproductive. It's gutless. 

I know I'm going to get hate mail from Monday and today's conversations. That's fine. I do not seek hatred as a mode of popularity and spotlight the way Stern did in his rise or Clay Travis does now or the way that some columnists like Terrence Moore, who painted race into every AJC sports column he wrote in the 1980s, did.

But I will always strive to be honest, and that means at times calling everyone out on each side because everyone makes mistakes, especially in emotionally charged situations like this.

Because, for most of the Golic or Wingo Show on Tuesday, the conversation was NBA issues, MLB issues, Zeke Elliott catching the Corona and everything else including Kaepernick getting back in the NFL. 

I listened from 7:30 to almost 9:30. I heard the Gundy-Hubbard story once and the gist was that Hubbard has every right to post what he wanted and call attention to this.

If you are going to speak about it and not weigh each side, then that debate is not honest. In fact, it's not even a debate; it's a sermon. (Again, this is with the caveat that Gundy is not sacrificing goats and making his players call him Grand Dragon behind the scenes.)

Yes, anyone has the right to post anything they truly believe. It's also fair to call it out when those posts are wrong, misguided or even abusive of the platform, because Lord knows I have called out plenty on each side and been called out too.

Now know this: Did you know in the NASCAR Xfinity series on Saturday there was a car painted with a Blue Lives Matter color-scheme in support of the 95-plus percent of officers trying to protect us in this unprecedented time in terms of disease and unrest?

That seems like a story, right? Well, the first thing I read or heard about it was Monday afternoon. And I apologize for not knowing about it and not sharing that important conversation point until now.   

> I also have been clear that the "Stick to sports" crowd lost that chance years ago. (You could almost say decades considering the impact and range of social change names like Robinson, Ali and others started.)

But I understand the concern behind the "Stick to sports" crowd a little more these days.

Because, if we even stick to college football racial conversations over the last month amid all the confrontation, well, the overarching question of whether we will ever be able to have a sporting event without social commentary or a season without social controversy.

There are a lot of us who love sports, but love all of the things around the games as much as the game themselves. 

A huge part of that is the knowledge that for the longest time the colors of the jersey mattered more than the color of those wearing them. It was the knowledge that the most diverse room in the country was the locker room. It was the joy of a complete organization — management, players, fans — from all walks of life, sharing the highs and the lows of victory and defeat.

After three months of wondering whether we would ever be able to attend a game because of the Corona, now a whole lot of fans have to wonder if we'll ever be able to sit down and watch a game again without saddling up to the fire hose of social issues. 

Sorry that got lengthy and windy and serious. 


Commish wavering 

Baseball is going to completely botch this, aren't they?

Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, said on the ESPN program welcoming back sports Monday night that he's not sure baseball will happen in 2020.

It came five days after he said he was 100 percent sure there would be a 2020 season.

Potentially even more damaging, he alluded to threats that the players union attorneys have made about filing a $1 billion grievance because of the disastrous negotiations that have taken place.

So then players have taken the stance of "Make a schedule and tell us when to be there." The owners now want assurances that there will not be lawsuits filed.

The backs-and-forth makes we want to upchuck.

This is more ridiculous than a racist T-shirt.

As ESPN Jeff Passan — who is on TV more than Flo from Progressive Insurance these days — writes here, Manfred better figure out a way to save this because right now the players and the owners are Thelma and Louise staring into that canyon.

And when they drive that classic ride off the edge, it doesn't matter about the missteps beforehand, it will be painful for everyone. 

(And that's even before we get to the point that several unnamed MLB players and staffers have recently tested positive for Corona.)


This and that

— On the other end of the Hubbard situation — provided again with the caveat that there's not more underneath the surface — is the situation at Iowa that cost Chris Doyle his job as the nation's highest paid college football strength coach. How this is not falling more on Kirk Ferentz?

— Lindsey Young shares here that the North Georgia high school athletes involved with the racial slurs video have been kicked off their sports teams.

— You know the rules Here's TFP college football expert David Paschall on the 2001 Georgia win at Auburn. Alas, I was at this one too. Painful. 

— ESPN is looking at Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit as the tandem to broadcast Monday night football. They are good at what they do.

— Love this idea of Garth Brooks having concerts simulcast at drive in theaters, including one in Athens, Tennessee.


Today's questions

True or false. It's Tuesday. (That's a gimme Ernie.)

True or false, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit should stay in the college game, where they are the no-doubt A-team, rather than go to Monday Night Football.

True or false, the Oklahoma State thing is deeper than a T-shirt.

True or false, a media T-shirt is offensive.

And yet again, True or false, we will have a 2020 MLB season.

As for today, June 16 is National Fudge Day. Friend.

It's also the day 60 years ago that Pyscho premiered.

Grease also debuted on this day in 1978.

Rushmore of movie musicals. Go.