On Monday, with tensions rising around the country in response to the death of a Minneapolis man named George Floyd while in police custody, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren made a public declaration.
In addition to a $100,000 donation he and his wife, Greta, have made to the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., Warren announced the creation of the Big Ten Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition. In doing so, he invited members of college campuses ranging from student-athletes all the way up to university presidents to join.
Warren, the the first Black commissioner of a major college athletic conference, spent 15 years in the Minneapolis community.
Here is his statement in full:
“On Monday, May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a proud Black man, was killed by a member of law enforcement in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Emmett Till. The list goes on and on.
“Prior to joining the Big Ten Conference as Commissioner and relocating to Chicago, my family had lived full-time in the Minneapolis area for over 15 years as I worked as an executive with the Minnesota Vikings in the National Football League. Our kids were raised in Minnesota and attended school in Minnesota before leaving for college and the people of the great state of Minnesota are part of the fabric of our entire family.
“As a Black man, I pray every day for the health and safety of my wife and children, especially during interactions with law enforcement. We continue to see inequality and deep divide regarding how members of the Black community are treated compared to the rest of society and too often, the results have been horrific and senseless. Such racism and inequality are pervasive, not just endemic in law enforcement.
“Meaningful change will only occur if, as a nation, we are united, resilient and determined to create difficult, uncomfortable dialogue and take significant tangible action. We all need to strive to make the world a better place. One person, one family, one city, one state, one conference, one country.
“George Floyd’s death cannot be in vain.
“I have made the decision to create the Big Ten Conference Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition and invite student-athletes, coaches, athletic directors, chancellors, presidents and others to join me. I have already received powerful notes of support and interest in joining this coalition and look forward to partnering with the existing diversity councils on our various campuses. It is critical that our student-athletes possess their rights to free speech, their rights to peaceful protest and we will work to empower them in creating meaningful change.
“We must listen to our young people. Our children and future generations deserve better. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The Big Ten Conference will be part of the solution as we actively and constructively combat racism and hate in our country.
“In closing, my wife, Greta, and I have decided to personally make an initial gift of $100,000 from the Warren Family Foundation to the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights based in Washington, D.C., which focuses on addressing issues regarding racism, hate and voter registration.
“I will continue to pray, lead and take action to eliminate racism and hate in our country.”
The commissioner signed, “Godspeed, Kevin Warren.”
Around the Big Ten, coaches and university officials have made public statements on the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others. In Minnesota, a place that has become the epicenter of civil unrest, University of Minnesota head football coach PJ Fleck has been vocal in his support for the Floyd family and the fight for civic rights.
To date, coaches in the Big Ten who have made some kind of public remark include Fleck, Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Maryland’s Mike Locksley, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, and Indiana’s Tom Allen. Rutgers released a video with several members of the football team, including coach Greg Schiano, making appearances.
At Nebraska, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green, football coach Scott Frost, men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, and women’s basketball coach Amy Williams have all issued public statements. On Tuesday, June 2, at noon, Nebraska’s Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services plans to hold a public Zoom meeting to “provide a space for community sharing, dialogue, and ongoing support.” Those who wish to participate can register for the access link here.