Penn State football coach James Franklin released a statement Saturday on Twitter saying his ‘heart is broken’ by the recent ‘senseless deaths’ of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
‘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.’
Franklin’s remarks come following the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, on Monday in Minneapolis, which has sparked protests and riots in the Twin Cities and elsewhere around the country. A white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as three other officers looked on. Chauvin, who has been charged with third degree murder, continued kneeling after Floyd said he could not breathe and for nearly three minutes after Floyd became unresponsive. All four officers were fired.
Floyd, who was unarmed, had been accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli.
Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old black man, was shot and killed after being chased down by two white men on Feb. 23 in Brunswick, Georgia.
Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman and emergency medical technician, was fatally shot by Louisville, Kentucky police officers who entered her home while serving a no-knock warrant at the wrong address, during a narcotics investigation in which a suspect had already been taken into custody.
“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 wrote. “We Are a country of opportunity, a nation of ambition and a people rooted in diversity, shared experiences and hope. It’s more critical now than ever we recognize our differences should not divide us but truly strengthen the fabric of who We Are.”
Franklin, one of 14 black FBS head coaches, continued that he is concerned for the well-being of his players, whom he said ‘have a platform to stand upon to remind us all lives deserve to be protected.’
‘The idea they can have their lives stolen from them before they get a chance to leave their mark on the world is unconscionable,’ Franklin wrote.
“I am gutted by this nation’s most recent tragedies and frustrated by our country’s inaction. Thankfully though, I am also encouraged by the faces of change I see every time I look at our team. I am thankful for the opportunity to lead men of honor, character, tolerance and empathy. I consider myself privileged to be a part of their triumphs, disappointments, happiness, sacrifices and frustrations, because We Are a nation of shared experiences. We Are a country built on hope, and it’s my greatest wish we remember our differences are what make us strong. Our shared pain is what binds us, but it will be our love and tenacity that guides the change needed in our country.’
In recent days, Penn State safety LaMont Wade has talked candidly about advocating for racial justice and wanting a safer world for his son. Defensive tackle Aeneas Hawkins retold his own experience on Twitter, about a man he didn’t know shouting racially charged language at him at a gas station last weekend.
Franklin concluded by writing that there can be no progress without all uniting for change.
‘It’s not only the tragic deaths of these individuals the last few weeks, it’s the smothering of hope and the suffocation of a dream that left me feeling so raw,’ he wrote. ‘These weren’t just people of color, these were AMERICANS. These were the citizens of our country, and if We Are to take a step forward, we cannot leave them behind. This is OUR country. This is OUR future. This is OUR moment.
‘It’s with love, respect and appreciation that I am praying for all of us.
‘In honor of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.’
State College community members have organized a ‘Justice for George Floyd’ rally at noon on Sunday at the Allen Street Gates. Organizers said it will be a peaceful event and asked participants to wear masks in accordance with COVID-19 precautions.