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Penn Staters Weigh In On George Floyd’s Death, Black Lives Matter Movement

After George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, protests, rallies, and movements have swept the nation. Social media erupted with thousands of posts ranging from protest coverage, personal anecdotes, political discourse, and words of encouragement.

The Penn State community is no exception. Sunday afternoon, hundreds of community members marched on College Ave. in a “Justice For George Floyd Protest.” Along with that, several notable Penn Staters have used their platforms to share their thoughts on the movements and inspire positive change.

Lamar Stevens

The former Penn State men’s basketball star gave a very inspiring speech to his fellow protesters at the demonstration in State College this weekend. He discussed what it means to be black and how people who haven’t gone through those experiences need to educate themselves.

“We’re fighting for each other, and equal rights,” Stevens said. “If you don’t understand what it’s like being black, then it’s time to start asking questions. It’s time to start educating yourself about what it’s like, being a kid and having my mom hug me like it’s the last time she’s going to see me, every single time I walk out the door.”

Stevens also took to Twitter to call for his followers to give their vocal support for Black Lives Matter.

CJ Thorpe

Thorpe, a Penn State football offensive lineman, also marched this weekend and spoke to the crowd. His heartfelt speech detailed his experience living as a black man in America and was met with an emotional reaction from protestors.

“It’s hard. It’s hard. I know it’s hard. I know it is hard for you to step back out of your own pride, out of your own anger, out of your own fear,” Thorpe said. “It’s hard guys, I know. All I ask is that we stay smart and that we use our brain and that we use love. Like people have been saying — I’ve only heard it three times, talking about love — but that shit is so important. Now more than ever because we have so much hatred going around. You can’t fight hate with hate, man.”

On Twitter, Thorpe also expressed his support for the protests and demonstrations currently taking place all over the world.

Lamont Wade

Wade has tweeted and retweeted posts about police brutality and recent protests several times. In one of his tweets, he called for African Americans to choose not to celebrate Independence Day this year and celebrate Juneteenth on June 19 instead. The day commemorates the emancipation of the last remaining slaves in Texas in 1865.

Will Levis

Penn State football quarterback Will Levis took to Twitter on May 29 to express his support for the black community. He stressed that even though he will never truly know their experiences with racism and prejudice, he will still stand up and use his privilege to create positive change.

James Franklin

While many coaches and school officials, such as Penn State vice president for intercollegiate athletics Sandy Barbour and President Eric Barron, have released their own statements, Penn State football head coach James Franklin’s words were particularly touching.

“My heart is broken, my beliefs have been challenged and my emotions are raw,” Franklin wrote. “These senseless deaths are a symptom of a larger problem and in moments like this, silence is a deafening indifference.

“Our country is at a critical point and it’s imperative when the road is bumpy, the path convoluted, the reality heartbreaking, we remember who and what We Are,” Franklin continued. “We Are a country of opportunity, a nation of ambition and a people rooted in diversity, shared experiences and hope.”

Franklin added that he is directly concerned for the health and well-being of the players he coaches every day. The fact that some of them could have their lives stolen from them at any point is something he described as “unconscionable.”

To close his statement, Franklin honored the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

Sandy Barbour

Penn State’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics issued a statement via Twitter Sunday afternoon. Barbour explained that we must create accepting environments in all of our communities in order to stop the “senseless acts” that continue to take place.

“I’ve been motivated and moved by the number of our educators, many of whom are head coaches who lead and inspire our young men and women daily, including James Franklin’s thoughtful and heartfelt words.

“These leaders know our collective future, in large part, depends on the courage and inspiration they can instill in the young people they lead and who their families have entrusted us to educate, inspire, and keep safe,” Barbour added.

Rob Cooper

Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper announced Saturday morning his team will honor George Floyd’s life by retiring No. 5 next season.

“George Floyd wasn’t perfect. None of us were,” Cooper wrote on Twitter. “However, he was a brother, a son, a friend, & a teammate. He wore #5 in college. I never met Mr. Floyd, but I have coached many #5’s in my career & I loved them all. Next season, no [Penn State baseball] player will wear #5 to honor Mr. Floyd.”

Floyd wore No. 5 as a basketball player at South Florida Community College, now renamed South Florida State College, from 1993 to 1995.

Eric Barron

Penn State President Eric Barron released a statement over the weekend that condemned the “tragic circumstances” of Floyd’s death. He encouraged the Penn State community to speak out against all violence and discrimination based on race.

Barron directly addressed Penn State by explaining that it has an obligation to fight “ignorance and intolerance,” be an inclusive community, and embrace the power of diversity.

Barron added that Penn State has a commitment to disrupt “hate, bias, and racism,” and to create the most inclusive and diverse community as possible.

You can read his full letter below.

To the Penn State community,

The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, following other recent unspeakable tragedies, makes clear yet again that systemic discrimination and unjust racial disparities continue to plague our country. It is past time for change.

We cannot remain silent in the face of this heart-breaking reality. As an institution of higher education, we have an obligation to fight ignorance and intolerance, model inclusivity and embrace the power that diversity represents.

In the face of hatred and bias, we must speak out. We must not accept apathy, indifference or silence, otherwise we allow hatred, prejudice and intolerance to grow.

Our message today is, foremost, one of profound compassion for all who live in fear that the color of their skin, gender identity, ethnicity or religion makes them a target of hate. Our hearts ache as we can only imagine the trauma, pain and frustration that many are feeling at this time.

This message also reaffirms Penn State’s commitment to disrupting hate, bias and racism whenever and wherever we encounter it, and to creating the most inclusive and diverse community that we possibly can – one that is free of discrimination; one that embraces differences; and one that respects all individuals.

We support our community as you express your sadness and anger through peaceful protest, and we know it is even more challenging to support and lift each other up during this global pandemic, with the added difficulty of social distancing. However, please know that our entire University community grieves with you, supports you and joins with you as we strive for positive change.

Eric J. Barron

President, Penn State

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About the Author

Katie Moats

Katie Moats is a junior majoring in English, and although she says she's from Chicago, she could spit and it would hit Wisconsin. One time she studied abroad for about a minute and decided to get an entire tattoo on her body about it. If you like seeing Penn State-themed retweets and other stupid memes, you can follow her @k_moats24 on Twitter. All email inquiries must be written in the form of a poem and may be sent to [email protected]

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