Kansas State athletics director Gene Taylor and head football coach Chris Klieman released statements Friday morning in the wake of a controversial tweet from a student that led two football players to threaten to quit the team.
Jaden McNeil — a student at the university — posted a tweet Thursday afternoon mocking George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“Congratulations to George Floyd on being drug free for an entire month!” McNeil wrote in the tweet.
Taylor responded on Twitter Friday morning.
“Recent tweets from a K-State student downplaying the Black Lives Matter effort and the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd are disgusting and totally inappropriate and not reflective of who we are as a university or our athletics department,” wrote Taylor, who didn’t address McNeil by name. “They are not reflective of our administration and goals. We are committed to listening and supporting our Black athletes, Black students and members of our Black community and taking positive steps in the matters of social injustice and racism.”
Klieman also reiterated he will defend anyone affiliated with K-State football.
“Our program and our coaches will continue to be part of the solution when it comes to racial injustice,” Klieman wrote on Twitter. “I love our players and they know I have their backs.”
Multiple K-State football players reacted angrily after learning of McNeil’s tweet.
“He go to kstate ?? Naw (something) gotta change now (for real),” rising sophomore receiver Joshua Youngblood tweeted. Youngblood earned numerous All-America and all-freshman accolades after returning three kickoffs for touchdowns last season. “(Y)’all need to do something.”
Youngblood followed up by tweeting that he wouldn’t return to K-State until the university expelled McNeil. Youngblood deleted that tweet, but made it known he doesn’t want to solely be known as an athlete.
“Football does not define my teammates or myself,” he wrote. “We have emotions, and we are regular people with real feelings. Playing is sport is literally 10% of who we really are.”
Tee Denson, a true freshman defensive back, didn’t mince words.
“I refuse to play for a program that tolerates ignorance such as this,” he wrote, citing McNeil’s tweet.
Rising senior cornerback Walter Neil Jr. was equally as forceful with his thoughts on the matter.
“YES, I am a football player BUT I’m a BLACK man first. Get this handled NOW,” he wrote, tagging the university’s official Twitter account. “St is ridiculous!”
Fellow cornerback AJ Parker simply was saddened by McNeil’s lack of empathy.
“This is one of those people who refuse to understand,” Parker wrote. “I’ll never know how you can justify taking a man’s life and then call yourself a Christian. I’m praying for you.”
Malik Knowles, a third-year sophomore who is the Wildcats’ top returning receiver, was puzzled.
“What makes you think (this) is something cool to say bro? We have to make a change,” wrote Knowles, who also tagged the university’s account in his tweet.
Jonathan Alexander, a senior defensive back, asked for a one-on-one talk with McNeil to give the student “a chance to explain” himself — and what his tweet meant.
“If you being disrespectful, (you’re going to) have to disrespect me to my face,” Alexander wrote, “and show me you like that.”
Even one of K-State’s newcomers joined the discussion.
“The disrespect of a man that was murdered will not be tolerated ... does it comfort you to justify his death by his past?” wrote tight end Briley Moore, a graduate transfer who is now part of the Wildcats’ program after beginning his career at Northern Iowa. “Here’s a thought replying to your (second) tweet. If his past justifies his death, I can give you a much, much longer ‘rap sheet’ for someone you support so dearly.”
Julian Jones, who is K-State’s assistant athletics director of student-athlete development, was pleased to see players speaking out.
“The Student-Athletes who are standing up for what they believe in social media are STRONG!!” Jones wrote on Twitter. “I look at the comments that’s under the posts, and I get pissed off. For them not to respond is STRONG!! Keep using your platforms Student-Athletes!!”