Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen and basketball coach Greg McDermott shared statements on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, condemning systemic racism while also expressing a desire to learn more about ways to bring effective change.
Their messages came a couple of hours after Denzel Mahoney, a senior-to-be on the Bluejays’ basketball team, took to Twitter to critique the university’s social media presence.
Mahoney tweeted a grid-like photo collage containing screenshots of the nine other Big East schools’ official Twitter accounts, each one referencing the nation’s ongoing conversation about issues surrounding race and injustice after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Mahoney asked if Creighton was going to “say ANYTHING about what is going on in our country right now?”
CU did host a virtual candlelight vigil Monday. And its president, Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, penned a 700-word letter Sunday addressing “the unfairness, discrimination, and violence of racism.”
But given that social media is the main platform of communication for college-aged students — particularly with CU’s campus closed and its undergrads scattered across the country due to the pandemic — Mahoney told The World-Herald on Wednesday that he thought his university should be bolder in sending its messages out. Particularly on Twitter.
McDermott and Rasmussen both indicated in their statements Wednesday that they’d been weighing their emotions for several days as they digested the events of the past week.
McDermott said he reached out to current and former black players and staff members to ask about their experiences.
“We do have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the negative effects of bias and prejudice on the members of our black community,” wrote McDermott, who completed his 10th year as CU’s coach. “Black voices need to be heard, and we need to listen with compassion and take supportive action to correct the wrongs and prevent further damage.”
Rasmussen admitted that he has not listened enough. Perhaps many in his generation have not been listening, either, he wrote.
“We have been silent and have not done enough to end the senseless violence and brutality,” Rasmussen wrote. “We have not talked enough about the harm institutional racism has done to people of color.”
The comments from McDermott and Rasmussen, two of the most high-profile college sports voices in the state, followed suit with a recent trend in the NCAA ranks the past several days.
Dozens of college basketball and football coaches, athletic department administrators and conference commissioners have issued statements about the country’s racial disparities and the call for change.
But coincidentally Wednesday, a hiring report card was released by the Institute of Racial and Gender Ethics in Sport, led by Dr. Richard Lipchick.
It highlighted a challenge still facing the NCAA: There are gaps in diversity within college sports’ leadership.
According to the report, 53.3% of Division I college basketball players were black and 45.9% of the D-I assistants were black in 2019. But just 23.6% of D-I coaches were black.
In college football, there were 18 head coaches of color in the FBS (13.8%) in 2019. Of the players, 45.5% were black.
Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief operating officer and chief legal officer, said in a statement that “there is more work to be done.”
McDermott’s full statement
“The horrific events that have transpired over the last week have served to raise my awareness of the racial injustices that exist in our country today. I’ve come to learn much more about the systematic practices that negatively impact our black community. For that, I would like to thank my current and former players and staff who have had the patience to answer my questions to help me process my understanding of their harsh reality at this very difficult time in their lives.
“It’s obvious that we need change. While we cannot undo the past, we do have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the negative effects of bias and prejudice on the members of our black community. Black voices need to be heard, and we need to listen with compassion and take supportive action to correct the wrongs and prevent further damage.
“I hear you, I see you, I stand with you. Together we can help create a world where racism is uprooted and eliminated at its core."
Rasmussen’s full statement
“Last week I watched the video of the senseless murder of George Floyd and have spent the past week trying to find the right words regarding this latest act of injustice, but adequate words have failed me. I am heartbroken, I am outraged, I am angry, I am frustrated. I am white, I am privileged. I cannot say that I understand the systemic racism that has gone on in our country during my lifetime but I know that it is real. I know people are judged and treated based on the community they are from and the color of their skin. I have been a part of the problem. I have not listened enough to understand. I have been able to reach levels of success without hearing or engaging people of color. I know everyone matters to God but I must also be willing to live out this understanding every day. Why do we think that a person is more valuable because of the color of his or her skin, or the size of their bank account, or the number of their possessions? God says that each of us is valuable because we are each a part of Him, made in His image.
“Our country was formed with the motto ‘e pluribus unum’ — ‘out of many, one’ — and 250 years later, we remain so very, very far from this ideal. We need to celebrate diversity, not criticize it. My generation has not done enough to solve these issues. We have been too silent and have not done enough to end the senseless violence and brutality. We have not talked enough about the harm institutional racism has done to people of color. This pandemic has disproportionately affected black people in health and economic ways much harder than others, and many of their cries for justice are being met with indifference or brutality. However, I am encouraged by this current younger generation. I need to better use my position as a leader of young men and women to talk with them about how I can bring change. We have to be brave enough to be different and start discussing radical topics such as humility and gratitude and compassion and patience and forgiveness.
“Jesus constantly ministered to those who were excluded, marginalized, neglected, judged, abused … we need to do the same. We are all brothers and sisters. We need to do more … we need to be more. We need to do whatever we can to preserve the dignity and respect that every brother or sister deserves. We need to listen — to actively listen. We cannot begin to learn until we learn to listen better and to promote a respect for every person regardless of their color, religion, political affiliation, beliefs or economic condition. We cannot ignore the violence against people of color in our country. We need to eliminate racism from our society. We need to work together for peace, for mutual respect and for love for all of God’s children. We need to change people’s hearts. We can have diverse perspectives and still love and respect each other.
“It must start with me. I must humble myself. I must defeat my pride and recognize that everyone is valuable and better than me in some way with abilities to provide unique contributions or perspectives. It will take gratitude — an appreciation of what I do have and an understanding that God put us here for a purpose. And it will take compassion — a willingness to reach out to each person I meet and demonstrate that I care for them enough to be willing to help.
“Father Hendrickson’s message from Sunday says that ‘The Spirit calls Creighton to do more.’ We must change. We need to be better than this … I must change … I need to be better than this.”