Vols coaches call on fans to support black athletes beyond the field of play

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer and its 15 head coaches called on Vol Nation to demand social progress in the wake of the George Floyd’s death.

Tennessee Athletics released a unified statement on Sunday as a sixth day of protests continued across the country in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Read the full statement from UT Athletics on UTSports.com

“Vol Nation, let’s rise to the challenge to meet a new standard. If you’re going to support our black student-athletes when they compete, please have the courage to support them and their families in their daily pursuit of peace, happiness and equity.”

UT Athletics Leadership unified statement

The statement’s second paragraph begins with a call to action for Vol fans to challenge societal norms that have been harmful to people of color and demand progress.

“As Tennessee head coaches, we are now calling on anyone who is a fan of the Vols and Lady Vols to meet and expect a standard in our daily walk. Let us all refuse to accept or tolerate the unjust treatment of our black neighbors. Let us challenge those who attempt to justify, dismiss, ignore or explain away mistreatment of blacks or any other person of color.”

“Demand action that leads to change. Demand PROGRESS. This is a basic, human principle that, among some, seems to have become as endangered as basic human rights for blacks in our communities.

UT Athletics Leadership unified statement

The statement identifies important societal values taught in athletic competition and posits whether society could be improved by applying many of these principles to everyday life. “It’s widely accepted that sport teaches valuable lessons about leadership, discipline, collaboration, dependability and perseverance. However, the most IMPACTFUL and life-changing lesson sport teaches might actually be the lesser-touted ability to fully accept and embrace people who are different from us and have very different life experiences,” the statement said.

“Wherever you’re reading this, it likely holds true that the cultures that exist in the sports programs at your local high school or college are much healthier than the culture in your local community. Why do these healthy cultures exist in small sports teams’ locker rooms all across the country, but not in our larger communities?”

UT Athletics Leadership unified statement

The statement ends by asking Tennessee fans to support black students not only on the field, but also, “in their daily pursuit of peace happiness and equity.”

The statement is signed by the following UT head coaches:

  • Beth Alford-Sullivan, Track & Field/Cross Country
  • Rick Barnes, Men’s Basketball
  • Lisa Glenn, Rowing
  • Kellie Harper, Women’s Basketball
  • Matt Kredich, Swimming & Diving
  • Alison Ojeda, Women’s Tennis
  • Judi Pavon, Women’s Golf
  • Brian Pensky, Soccer
  • Jeremy Pruitt, Football
  • Eve Rackham, Volleyball
  • Tony Vitello, Baseball
  • Brennan Webb, Men’s Golf
  • Karen Weekly, Softball
  • Ralph Weekly, Softball
  • Chris Woodruff, Men’s Tennis

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