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Houston football team misses practice as student-athletes, coaches from multiple programs express desire for social change

The Houston football team practicing in the August heat as they prepare for the 2019 season. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

The Houston football team practicing in the August heat as they prepare for the 2019 season. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

UPDATED: After the UH football team postponed practice on Saturday, one of the team’s leaders explained on social media the reason behind the need to move the attention away from sports at the moment.

“Today’s sit out at UH was about coming together against racial injustice, to have difficult conversations and to devise a plan to battle the hate shown to people of color in our community,” senior linebacker Grant Stuard wrote in a tweet. “It was about unity. If you wish to stay divided, that’s on you. But WE will be United.”

Stuard was not the only one who directly addressed the football team’s decision on Saturday.

UH men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson spoke to Fox 26 and expressed his approval of the team’s action on Saturday.

“I applaud and commend the football team for taking this stance,” Sampson said. “(Athletes across the country) want us to know that they’re crying. They want to know that this is a world that they can bring their sons and daughters up in and know they’re gonna have a fair chance. That they’re gonna be treated fairly.”

The UH basketball team did not practice on both Thursday and Friday either, Sampson said. The team took a pause in workouts and instead took the time to let the student-athletes express their emotions and have space where they can be heard.

The Houston football team postponed practice on Saturday to join in on the various protests around the country for racial and social justice according to several media outlets, which was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

The UH football team is following in the footsteps of numerous teams, both pro and collegiate, by holding off on practice to protest. The recent wave of social unrest stems from the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Since the report of the football team came out, several players have gone on Twitter to share their reasoning and viewpoints.

“Bigger than football #Together,” Stuard wrote in a quote tweet that was a report of the team calling off practice.

Tweets from the student-athletes ranged from using #BlackLivesMatter and fist emojis to longer statements.

“You ain’t my color then you don’t know the struggle of livin’ black,” wrote sophomore receiver Nathaniel Dell on Twitter.

Several members of the UH football coaching staff also went on Twitter and expressed their desire for change including cornerbacks coach Zac Etheridge:

The football team’s protest comes after the men’s basketball team met with UH officials on Friday, which included athletic director Chris Pezman.

“Today I had an incredible, powerful, raw emotional meeting with our men’s basketball team regarding efforts to create meaningful sustained change,” Pezman’s statement on Twitter read. “Their candor, bravery and willingness to fight for a brighter future should give us all hope.”

Men’s basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson also took to Twitter to release a statement expressing how proud he is of his team.

“Our next generation gives me hope for our future in fighting racism and social injustice,” Sampson’s statement read. “Respect and decency goes a long way. Being around the young men that represent our basketball program motivates me and inspires me every day.

“Reach out to someone to let them know you love them, you respect them, you support them and you have their back. BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

Student-athletes from the men’s basketball team rallied around Sampson’s tweet on Friday night, which included sophomore guard Marcus Sasser:

Assistant director for player development Mikhail McLean also took to social media to support the message by the head coach.

“This is sooooo much bigger than basketball #BlackLivesMatter #StandForSomething,” McLean wrote on Twitter.

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