One day after nearly the entire Kansas State football team released a letter stating it wouldn’t “play, practice or meet” until it sees institutional change on racism at the university, head coach Chris Klieman released his strongest statement yet.
“Racism is NOT welcome at KSTATE now or in the future. On and off the field, as a family, we will make a difference through our ACTION,” Klieman wrote on Twitter. “I am excited to help every player unite for the solution NOW, so that we can come together stronger than ever.
“Black Lives Matter.”
Klieman’s statement came in the wake of a controversial tweet by K-State student Jaden McNeil that has roiled the university and made headlines across the country since Thursday.
“Congratulations to George Floyd on being drug free for an entire month!” McNeil wrote in the tweet.
Klieman’s statement immediately was met with praise from one of the most visible members of the movement within the team.
“That’s the tweet we needed from ya,” wrote rising senior defensive back Jonathan Alexander.
Alexander told The Mercury in a phone interview Saturday that the team wanted to see Klieman and others in high-profile positions at the university — including president Richard Myers and athletics director Gene Taylor — use their platforms to condemn racism in all forms.
“What we’re saying is, ‘Just say that you guys don’t respect that. Just say that you guys don’t represent that,’” Alexander said. “That’s all that we’re saying. ... We’re just wanting (K-State) to say, ‘We don’t respect his point of view.’”
Hours after Klieman’s tweet, Myers posted a letter on K-State’s academic website. (See ull story on A1.)
“Many ask: What can we do? They say we need more than words — we need action,” Myers wrote. “What we can do is rise up in peaceful protest and let those who spew hatred and bigotry know that we have an even stronger voice. As your president, I’m willing to join these protests and amplify your voices, particularly for those individuals from marginalized populations who are the most vulnerable in these situations.
“I’ve asked our administration to fast-track action plans to combat racism and bigotry and other forms of social injustice. We’ll talk about these action plans in K-State Today later this week. We’ll make every effort to make sure everyone’s voice is heard as we address these very serious concerns.
“I am sorry these incidents have caused our K-State family great pain and for some to fear for their personal safety. We pledge to work together to protect the well-being of everyone as we strive to eliminate racism, hatred and bigotry on our campuses.”
Alexander wasn’t the only member of the football program exhilarated by Klieman’s words.
“Love you coach,” wrote rising senior defensive end Bronson Massie.
“Players’ Coach,” wrote rising senior defensive back AJ Parker, who included the raised fist emoji along with his tweet.
“My Man. This is somebody you get beside,” wrote Joe Hall, a former K-State running back who now serves as the program’s director of student-athlete development. “These are the type of men that should be praised. 400 years of men willing to do nothing for the right cause, and many of them have statues erected of them. This isn’t a popular stance, this is the right one.”
Even a former player expressed his admiration for Klieman’s stand.
“I’d do anything to play just one season under this man!” wrote former offensive lineman Abdul Beecham, whose final year with the Wildcats came in 2018, the year before Klieman replaced the legendary Bill Snyder as head coach.
K-State players are on leave, for now. The football program began voluntary workouts June 15. Five days later, the athletics department announced the workouts were suspended following an outbreak in which at least 14 players had tested positive for the coronavirus.
K-State’s season opener tentatively is scheduled for Sept. 5, when it is supposed to host Buffalo at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. That date, and opponent, is written in pencil, however, as the sports world continues to wrestle with how COVID-19 could disrupt seasons.