411 on the Forty — Part 3: Big 12 to give men’s basketball players Election Day off

18 Jun By
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Texas Longhorns Basketball Kamaka Hepa

Texas Longhorns Basketball Kamaka Hepa
(photo courtesy texassports.com)

By Riley Zayas

The right to vote has never been more important.

That is the message multiple conferences have been sending over the past couple of weeks. The Big 12 became the latest conference to join in, when all 10 men's basketball head coaches agreed to give players the day off Nov. 3, which is Election Day.

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Players will be required to have the day off from all basketball-related activities including preseason exhibitions and games. At this point, the agreement only applies to men’s basketball.

Texas men's basketball head coach Shaka Smart tweeted out a message from the Big 12 which was signed by all 10 of the league’s head coaches and stated:

“This is a movement, not a moment. We are committed to using our platforms to make a lasting difference and help bring an end to racism.

“We are united in our decision to make Election Day a mandatory off day for Big 12 men’s basketball players. We will take action to encourage the young men we mentor to register and exercise their right to vote.

“While this is only one small step, we are committed to taking further action and standing up for those who are suffering from racism.”

The Big 12 coaches have been very outspoken when it comes to the nationwide protests regarding police brutality and racism.

When it comes to racism and the protests, Texas student-athletes from a variety of sports have spoken up, using their platforms to call for changes at Texas, including the abolishment of the famous school fight song, The Eyes of Texas. Additional requests for change center on changing the names of residence halls and buildings, including Robert Lee Moore Hall and James Hogg Auditorium. The following message was retweeted by a number of Longhorns with the phrase "What starts here changes the world" and the hashtag, #WeAreOne.

A number of football players as well as multiple coaches, notably head coach Tom Herman, participated in a peaceful protest June 4 in Austin. Below is a tweet from Orangebloods.com columnist Anwar Richardson who covered the protest live.

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The protest came a day after wide receiver Brennan Eagles announced he would not play another snap in a Texas uniform as long as this is going on as a form of protest, asking his teammates and followers to “look at the bigger picture.

Joining him Wednesday was linebacker Juwan Mitchell who tweeted that "he does not feel comfortable representing The University of Texas". In a long message posted, he explained that he feels he and his teammates put their all into representing Texas and the city of Austin but that at this time there are things more important than football, such as fighting for equality. Throughout his entire letter, his recurring theme was "Do what's right...never what's liked".

https://twitter.com/juwanmitchell_6/status/1273413983161266179

"When I look in the mirror in the morning, I want to tell myself I did the right thing," Mitchell said. "That should be everyone's mindsets. It's not about blacks vs. whites, or cops (vs.) blacks. It's about doing what's right!"

So far, Texas' leaders have responded in favor of the student-athletes' requests and concerns regarding racism on campus. Vice President and Athletic Director Chris Del Conte opened his weekly "Forty Acres Insider" on Wednesday with saying thank you to the numerous current and former alumni, many of them athletes, whom he has spoken with  over the past couple of days when it comes to addressing this with the 20 varsity sports teams on campus.

"Y’all truly love the Burnt Orange and White, and we all know it’s critical that we unify as one," wrote Del Conte. "This is a challenging time and one that we must take on with a loving heart and open mind, as well as understanding and empathy. Most importantly, it’s crucial that we work together, listen, trust each other and remain united."

In addition, Interim President Jay Hartzell has expressed a desire, along with Del Conte, to meet with each team to discuss how to move forward and unify the Longhorn community. However, much to the dismay of the student-athletes leading the charge, Hartzell did not mention renaming buildings on campus or abolishing "The Eyes of Texas" in his letter to the students Monday, instead saying "I pledge that we will come together as a community to make The University of Texas an even greater place."

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Both Hartzell and Del Conte have been working quickly to connect with the athletes as soon as possible, and started with the football team on Tuesday. According to two sources, they met with the team inside the practice facility bubble.

It is the beginning of a long list of people to meet with and concerns to discuss in the weeks ahead for Texas' two main leaders.

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Riley Zayas is a high school freshman and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kids reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports website.