Amid the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality that were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, University of Kansas athletics leaders and several other sports figures with KU ties are speaking out.
In a joint statement issued Saturday by the athletic department, 13 KU coaches and Athletic Director Jeff Long called for an end to racial divides and violence.
“We join together as an athletic department, united in hopes to end the unconscionable acts of racism,” the statement said.
And in their own statements, men’s basketball coach Bill Self and football coach Les Miles said they were greatly saddened by the deaths of Floyd “and too many others.”
“It is incomprehensible that this level of racism still occurs in this day and age,” Self said. “And it’s unacceptable.”
Miles wrote about how he values diversity in his football program, and he said he has always has tried to encourage all of his players “to go be leaders and make a positive impact in the world.”
“My heart hurts as I reflect on the racism that still exists in this country and the civil unrest we currently find ourselves in,” Miles’ statement read. “Regardless of race and color we cannot keep turning a blind eye to those that need our support through words and actions now more than ever.”
Added Self: “We must be better.”
The statements from KU’s coaches on Saturday night were just a few of thousands of condemnations of racism from coaches and athletes across the country at all levels of college and professional sports.
On Sunday night, KU women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider tweeted about how he'd spoken with his wife, Ali, and their two young sons about the protests sparked by Floyd’s death. Schneider said he and his family would lean on their Christian faith, and that he emphasized to his sons that they “have a responsibility to be part of the solution.”
“We stand together in promoting peace, justice, equality and unity in the fight against racism,” Schneider wrote.
Late last week, former KU All-American Nick Collison shared that he'd donated $20,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund “in the Memory of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and so many other people whose lives weren’t valued because of the color of their skin.”
“I am so angry and disgusted with so much of what I have seen,” Collison tweeted. “... I have been inactive for too long. This is what I can do today. Join me and do what you can do today.”
And current KU assistant men's basketball coach Kurtis Townsend said he would "continue to pray for peace."
“How many more people need to die?” he asked in a tweet. “... I will continue to pray for our athletes in these times. It starts with leadership.”
Danny Manning, KU’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder and a former Self assistant, also took to Twitter to offer his thoughts.
Manning, who played for 15 seasons in the NBA after his four-year KU career, shared that he often had talks with his teammates, along with the players he coached at Kansas, Tulsa and Wake Forest, about being able to talk openly and honestly about social change.
“I always thought these talks assisted us in creating the change we need within our world,” Manning wrote. “We need more peaceful, transparent and educational conversations so we can eliminate these tragedies.
“We can’t keep talking about coming together when there is a tragedy. We must have a better sense of empathy. We must come together in peace and love.”
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self warned before the Jayhawks’ season-opener in Honolulu that KU would be in trouble if they did not defend Indiana’s three-point shooters.
Sixteen makes and 48 percent from three-point range later, the Hoosiers dropped KU to 0-1 on the season with a 103-99, overtime battle in the Armed Forces Classic.
Self and senior guard Frank Mason both admitted that part of the Jayhawks’ struggles against the three-point shot was that Indiana shot out of its mind and hit some very tough shots and incredibly clutch times. But that did not eliminate the fact that both believed the Jayhawks could defend better and Self said, yet again, that they better Tuesday night against No. 1 Duke in New York City.
“We’re capable of being a very good shooting team,” Self said. “But Indiana and Duke aren’t teams you probably want to get in a HORSE contest with and I think sometimes they can kind of goad you into that. They hit a three and you want to match it on the other end.”
That happened at times against the Hoosiers and Self said it easily could happen again against the Blue Devils, given the enormous stage, magnitude of the game and desire to right what went wrong in the opener.
“They’re about as good a shooting team as we’ll play all year,” Self said of 2-0 Duke. “We may play the best two shooting teams that we’ll play all year in the first two games. We didn’t do a great job defending Indiana and we’ve gotta be a lot better getting to the three-point shooters against Duke.”
One way to do that, according to Self, is to make Duke’s sharp-shooters work when they don’t have the ball.
“We need to do some different things to kind of create less rhythm for them offensively,” Self said. “And sometimes you can do that when you have the ball and make them guard you on the defensive end.
“You want to give the defense a chance to break down,” he continued. “The other thing is, when you’re in the bonus or double-bonus, a lot of times you’re bailing out the defense by not making them guard, especially when they’re calling it close. You want to put pressure on officials to make calls and the best way to do that is to put pressure on the other team to have to guard the ball.”
Self and No. 7 Kansas will face No. 1 Duke a little after 8 p.m. Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic.
I know there are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of you out there who always have wondered how well you'd fare against a professional athlete in your chosen sport.
Well, so did Monday Morning Quarterback writer Andy Benoit, a 29-year-old who recently challenged for Kansas University cornerback to a round of one-on-ones in Bixby, Oklahoma, at Harris' youth camp.
Benoit, who seemed to be a decent athlete in his own right, wrote a nice recap of his afternoon matching up with one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and he also included the following video, which makes for some serious entertainment.
You can see that Harris, ever the professional, took it serious enough to keep his reputation in tact but also did not bring anywhere near the noise that he brings snap after snap on Sundays with the Broncos. The reason? He didn't exactly have to.
Either way, it's a good read and a fun video. Props to Harris for accepting Benoit's challenge and to Benoit for giving it a shot.
From the article, here's how Benoit found himself on the field with Harris...
"I told my bosses, Peter King and editor Mark Mravic, that I wanted to play wide receiver one-on-one against an NFL cornerback and write about it. Peter and Mark became the first in a long line of people who would laugh at me. After convincing them I was serious, Peter said I could do it if I found a superstar to face. Perhaps this was Peter’s polite, backdoor method of discouraging the idea—like how you might tell a kid he can get his own house if his lemonade sales raise enough funds. My pool of prospects went from 130 corners to less than 10. But to my surprise, the man at the top of my list, Denver Broncos star Chris Harris, immediately said yes, almost no questions asked. In our business, that’s like finding a holy grail filled with winning scratch tickets."
Throughout his time as the head coach at Kansas, head football coach David Beaty has been a master at getting out and visiting fans.
From Kansas City to Dodge City, Wichita to Topeka and a bunch of areas in between, Beaty and some of his staff have pounded the pavement to meet and shake the hands of as many KU football supporters as they could possibly find and their interactions always have gone over very well.
Fans who entered the meet-and-greets frustrated by the recent struggles of KU football have come away excited about the future and fired up by Beaty's words, message and plan.
Monday night in Colorado, Beaty joined former KU great and current Denver Bronco Chris Harris at a sports bar in Denver, where both the coach and the former KU cornerback talked to the fans that showed up about the state of Kansas football entering 2016.
Beaty talked about how much his team had improved thus far under his leadership and emphasized how the team's focus has remained on getting better every day and was fixed on the season opener against Rhode Island on Sept. 3.
Having Harris participate in the event was no doubt a big pull and it also should have come as no surprise. Even though he has been gone for several years now, Harris has remained a strong supporter of his alma mater and continues to bang the drum for Kansas football on Twitter, by returning to games and practices and in NFL locker rooms.
"We believe in him," said Harris of Beaty. "All the KU guys, all the alumni guys that played at Kansas, we all believe in him and we loved him when he was there. He gave us so much energy."
The following, courtesy of Kansas Athletics, is a quick video that gives you a feel for how Beaty operates during these outings, which will continue throughout the offseason as the Jayhawks work with strength coach Je'Ney Jackson and his staff to get better in the weight room and Beaty and company prepare for preseason camp in August and continue to hit the recruiting trail.
We were blessed with the best tonight pic.twitter.com/V2Thqnf25b— Kansas Football (@KU_Football) May 10, 2016
The Big 12 Conference, both Kansas University and Kansas State University, as well as the K-State Police Department all have spent the early part of Tuesday reviewing the court-storming scene that turned wild following the K-State men's basketball team's 70-63 upset victory over No. 8 Kansas Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
Early Tuesday morning, K-State athletic director John Currie released the following statement about the incident:
"On behalf of President Schulz and K-State Athletics, I apologize to Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, Coach Bill Self and the KU basketball team for the unfortunate situation in which they were placed last night at the conclusion of our basketball game. "Our security staff, which in similar past postgame celebrations has, according to our procedures and rehearsals, provided a solid human barrier to allow the teams to conduct a postgame handshake and safely leave the court, was unable to get into proper position quickly enough last night and was overwhelmed by the fans rushing the floor. "K-State prides itself on providing a great game atmosphere in a safe environment and did successfully execute our security plan when we defeated KU last year in Bramlage as well as in 2011. Although no one was hurt last night, we fell short of our expectations for securing the court and escorting KU to its locker room without incident. We are disappointed that we did not do better for the KU team. "We are reviewing our procedures internally and consulting with our law enforcement partners to determine any steps necessary to improve our gameday security. "Additionally, we are actively reviewing video and working in concert with law enforcement to identify any fan who intentionally touched visiting players or personnel. We will take appropriate action with such identified persons, including turning over all evidence to law enforcement so that any applicable charges can be filed. "Early this morning I met with Student Governing Association President Reagan Kays and Vice-President for Student Life Pat Bosco who are supportive of these steps. While we are proud of the incredible atmosphere of Bramlage Coliseum and the passion of K-State students and fans, we are saddened by the insistence of some fans to sully the image of our great institution with audible profane chants. We will continue to work with our student leadership to provide a better example of sportsmanship for our audiences. "Congratulations are still in order for our coaches and student-athletes for their tremendous effort last night, and we look forward to Saturday’s home finale against Iowa State."
A short while later, the Big 12 Conference also released a statement that explained it was reviewing the actions of all of those involved.
"The Big 12 Conference office and the two schools are reviewing the postgame celebration that occurred at the conclusion of last night's Kansas at Kansas State game. In accordance with Conference policy, home team game management is responsible for the implementation of protocols to provide for the safety of all game participants, officials and fans."
The incident, which included K-State fans slamming into KU players and coaches, KU assistant Kurtis Townsend forcefully restraining a KSU fan from taunting KU players and general chaos and pandemonium, has become a hot topic nationally, as several media outlets have made this latest incident of college-celebrations-gone-wild the focal point for renewed debate on whether there is a place for such scenes in college athletics.
In addition, K-State police are looking for the public's help in identifying the fan who slammed into Jamari Traylor shortly after the storming began.