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James Franklin Discusses Impact Of Coronavirus, Racial Injustice On ESPN’s ‘Golic And Wingo’

Penn State football head coach James Franklin appeared on ESPN’s “Golic and Wingo” early Friday morning to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and the recent cases of racial injustice that have occurred across the country.

Franklin started off the call by explaining how it has been for himself and his team back on campus.

“You work extremely hard, you are as thorough as you possibly can, you’re detailed, and you have what you think is a great plan,” Franklin said. “That’s the theory. Then you get into the reality of coming back and it’s challenging. It’s extremely challenging.”

He continued, mentioning that Penn State took more of a “patient approach” during the return to campus process. The Nittany Lions wanted to learn from other colleges and professional sports leagues in order to get a good idea of what precautions needed to be put in place.

Franklin and his staff had weekly meetings with the players and their families while they were home to explain in detail what life back on campus would look like. He said that he wanted to make it so there was no pressure on his players to return if they didn’t feel comfortable.

“We have 38 players that have not returned, including six scholarship players,” Franklin explained. “It is truly voluntary. I know that some of the thoughts out there are that this isn’t voluntary. I can tell you that at Penn State it is.”

He said that the players who have returned have been comfortable, but are still facing challenges.

“The guys that have been back are very comfortable with how it’s been going,” Franklin said. “It’s not easy. They have to wear masks all the time, they can’t get into the facility without answering a questionnaire when they get up in the morning, they get their temperature taken before they come in.”

The Nittany Lion coach went on to describe the situation as “so far, so good,” with the offense and defense meeting every other day to limit the amount of people in the facility.

Franklin then spoke about his family and how his youngest daughter has sickle cell disease. While he is up in State College, Franklin’s family will stay down in Florida to protect the health of his daughter. Despite being upset that he will be away from his family for an extended period of time, Franklin knows it’s the right decision.

“Everything that you have to worry about with your child is just heightened for us,” Franklin said. “If our daughter gets a fever, she’s in the hospital for 48 hours. That’s been her entire life until it clears.”

He mentioned that there is a player on the team with an autoimmune disease who is really trying to come back, but due to the dangers of the coronavirus, is being held away from team for the time being.

Franklin didn’t pinpoint a date for when football will be back, but said that as long as everyone is informed and doing what they can to be healthy, then “we got a chance.”

“I think at the end of the day, for all us — this is in football, this is in life, state-by-state, and businesses — we have to do everything we possibly can do to keep everyone as safe as we can,” Franklin said.

Towards the end of the call, Franklin spoke on the latest racial injustice to take place across the country. He is calling for conversation and change when it comes to the topic.

“First of all, as an African American head football coach — one of very few in all of Division I athletics — I have a responsibility to empower our players and empower our staff, to have great discussions and dialogue,” Franklin explained. “How can we make Penn State better, how can we make our community better, how can we make our state better, our country, and our world better at some point.

“Whenever adversity or challenges come, the reality is that there is tremendous opportunity in that,” he continued. “That is how we’re embracing it. We’ve had great conversations as a team. We’ve had great conversations with the president of our university and the chair of the board. We want to make change, change that we think is needed.”

Franklin concluded the call by saying that there are too many smart people who have avoided this topic for a long time, letting out an emphatic “Let’s talk!”

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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