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As college and professional athletes boycott practices and games after police shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Syracuse men’s basketball transfer Alan Griffin dedicated his introductory press conference to addressing police brutality and athlete activism.
Griffin didn’t want to talk about himself. He didn’t want to answer questions about his transfer from Illinois to Syracuse, his recently approved waiver granting immediate eligibility or his adjustment since arriving at SU. Instead, Griffin wanted to use his platform to “speak out about what’s going on in today’s world.”
“How many more families do we need to see step up on podiums to talk about the life they’ve lost in their family,” Griffin said. “It’s just very disturbing to see, and it needs to come to a stop. Speaking about it several times seems like it’s not enough, so we need change. We need actions to go about.”
“I want to use my platform, my voice to speak out about what’s going on in today’s world.”
Here’s the full answer Syracuse forward Alan Griffin gave to the first question asked at his press conference today: pic.twitter.com/wTcmI2jgic
— Andrew Crane (@CraneAndrew) August 28, 2020
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Since a video surfaced Sunday showing Kenosha police officers repeatedly shooting Blake in the back, athletes at Syracuse and across the United States have crafted social media posts and statements condemning systemic racism and police brutality.
Syracuse hasn’t sat out any men’s basketball practices or workouts, but conversations have taken place with teammates and head coach Jim Boeheim about ways they can take concrete steps toward fixing issues that have been around for “400-plus years,” Griffin said.
“It was very, very disturbing for the people of my color and it should be disturbing for everybody,” Griffin said. “Because we’re all human and, at the end of the day, you only get one life.”
One concrete step is voter registration, Griffin said. Syracuse announced Aug. 23 that every men’s basketball player eligible to vote has been registered for the upcoming election.
The NCAA encouraged schools to make Nov. 3 a day off for athletes after Georgia Tech called in June for the postponement of athletic activities on Election Day. That month, Director of Athletics John Wildhack said in a press conference that SU’s athletic department would give players the opportunity to vote and might coordinate voter registration drives.
Conversations with his teammates and individuals such as his academic advisor have brought everyone closer and have presented different points of view about social justice issues, Griffin said.
“As college athletes, we’ve had this conversation for a long time on how we’re treated,” Griffin said. “Right now, we feel like our voices are being heard a lot more because of what’s going on in the world. We’re just being heard more.”
Since Griffin committed to Syracuse on April 4, the U.S. has undergone a racial reckoning. Protests broke out in cities across the country following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and residents have demanded systemic change to address police brutality and racism.
That’s why, in the NBA, Kyrie Irving refused to participate in the league’s Orlando bubble and restart because it’d distract from larger racial issues that needed attention. He called for other NBA players to sit out the rest of the season and, with the league paused two months later, “(Irving) needs an apology because he was right,” Griffin said.
From Griffin’s perspective, professional sports shouldn’t continue until issues with racism are solved.
“We all want to see change,” Griffin said. “We all want to use our platforms so we can see change.”
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