There was no quick response from Lovie Smith following the killing of George Floyd. The Illinois head coach didn’t frantically attempt to put out a statement, instead waiting for the right moment to speak on the issues of police brutality, social injustice and race in America.
Smith’s time came on Friday afternoon, when he joined Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico on NBCSN. That’s when the longtime football coach chose to talk about the current issues across the country.
And when Smith spoke, he was deliberate with words. He sent a strong message to everyone listening. From Friday’s interview:
“I’m a 62-year-old black man from the south in a biracial marriage. So MaryAnne and I have seen an awful lot. I get a chance to lead men from all different places, all different nationalities. As you mentioned, life skills do come up. As football players and as coaches, we live in a cocoon a lot of times where the real world doesn’t really touch us. We teach. We develop. We talk about developing the man first and then develop the football player.
“A few things we need to acknowledge and we can’t go much farther until we do this: systemic racism exists in our world,” Smith said. “We have to acknowledge that first before we go any farther. I’ve seen it. There’s one thing to identify a problem, then it’s how we change that problem. That’s what we’ve been doing at the University of Illinois. We’re trying to make the world better, but it can’t be words. I talk to our players about, ‘Hey, you have the right to protest.’ That’s great. That’s what college life is all about, in a peaceful manner. But then, ‘What else do you do?’ That’s where we are right now. What else do we do to make football better and make the world better?”
Every head football coach in the B1G has written a statement or spoken with the media regarding Floyd’s killing last month. Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz have appeared on ESPN.
On Tuesday, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh participated in an anti-police brutality march in Ann Arbor.
Below is Smith’s interview with Tirico:
Proud to have @LovieSmith as our leader.
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) June 5, 2020