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PJ Mustipher: Penn State Football Can ‘Lead Conversation’ Against Racial Injustice, Police Brutality

Several prominent Penn State figures have used their platforms to share their thoughts on the tragic deaths of unarmed black citizens, most recently George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

University President Eric Barron and vice president for intercollegiate athletics Sandy Barbour both released statements over the past few days, while members of the Penn State football community haven’t shied away from the discussion, either.

Head coach James Franklin shared a letter over the weekend, several players organized their thoughts on Twitter, and CJ Thorpe marched at Sunday’s “Justice For George Floyd” protest in State College. The offensive lineman even gave a speech at the gathering, as he shared his belief that Americans need to “use love” to solve their problems.

As discussions and protests continue into this week, members of the Penn State football community understand the power they have in speaking on these issues. Junior defensive lineman PJ Mustipher met with the media Tuesday and explained how proud he is of his teammates and coaches for using their platforms to promote a positive message.

“CJ [Thorpe’s] speech was beautiful,” Mustipher said. “I think everyone really wanted to hear what he had to say. When I saw that video was put out, I clicked on the link as soon as I could get my hands on it. CJ is one of the veterans in the locker room.

“It goes to show you that if guys in locker rooms across this country and Penn State football can start and lead this conversation, I think change can happen. CJ being a catalyst in starting this conversation when it’s not easy to do so, it speaks volumes to the leadership we have in this locker room.”

Along with prominent leaders like Thorpe, Franklin’s statement on Saturday further illustrated the Nittany Lions are ready to discuss this topic head-on. Franklin shared how heartbroken he is over the recent “senseless deaths” and stated he is directly concerned for the health and well-being of his own players.

Franklin added that despite these tragedies, he remains inspired by his players and is thankful for the opportunity to lead them.

“When you look at African-American coaches, they’re put in different situations than other coaches because of the color of their skin,” Mustipher said. “For him to come out and make an impactful statement on a sensitive subject speaks volumes to people like myself, African-Americans in the locker room. If he can do it, we can also do it.”

Penn State football players, coaches, and staff members recently held an open discussion via Zoom to share their thoughts on these recent events. Mustipher explained that the discussion was extremely beneficial and allowed him to take a step back and listen to the many different perspectives in the Penn State family.

Mustipher went on to mention he couldn’t pick one sentiment that stuck out to him from the call, as there were so many important points being made.

“There were many people in that meeting. It wasn’t just football players and coaches, it was also our staff,” Mustipher said. “It included so many different people, and the floor was so open for everybody discussing. People were so comfortable. People were also able to voice what they felt, and it was just a beautiful thing to see.

“We’re always so worried about football. We’re always so worried about what’s going on in our life, but we can take a step back and really see what’s going on around us and how we can change everything. That was the main message of what was going on,” Mustipher continued.

He added that the meeting reminded him that he and many of his teammates can, in fact, make a change by continuously having open and honest discussions.

In previous cases of unarmed black citizens losing their lives to police officers in the United States, athletes have been looked upon as leaders. That doesn’t always last for an extended amount of time, though, as it isn’t long before the discussion turns back to just sports.

For Mustipher, he wants to make sure that this current discussion becomes normalized in the United States moving forward, especially among athletes. He feels it is one way that a true change can be felt and sustained, and is certain that Penn State football can help lead this progress.

“I don’t want this to be just a one-week or one-month thing — I want this thing to be all year round,” Mustipher said. “I want us to never forget this feeling that we have right now because it’s so important. Tough times bring change, easy times don’t really bring change. It sucks that we have to go through this, but it’s important that we remember this feeling we’re having, and we continue to move forward as a country.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a junior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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