As the sports world blurred lines with the current social climate of the country last week – with pro sports teams canceling games in protest of the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin – Oklahoma State football found itself in the middle of the blur.
Days after the Milwaukee Bucks – a pro team that is 40 miles from Kenosha – boycotted its NBA Playoff game against the Orlando Magic, which led to two days of NBA playoff games being canceled, as well as a handful of MLB games, the OSU program came together to discuss the growing tension in the country instead of preparing for the upcoming season.
Several college football programs were led by their head coaches in recent days in marches across campus for social justice – including Nick Saban at Alabama, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Les Miles at Kansas. On Friday, when the Cowboy football team was slated to hold a scrimmage inside Boone Pickens Stadium, the players and coaches instead broke up into small groups throughout the West End Zone.
“Well, we let the players have input on the situation and so the seniors kind of lead the way and got together and had some discussions and got some good information and then back to work today,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said Monday. “I was just listening everywhere, everybody was just listening to, you know, an opinion on how people felt.”
But it wasn’t a typical breakdown for the small groups.
The Cowboys mixed race and position groups in order to allow people to get new perspectives on teammates they may not have interacted with in a casual setting.
“It was very impactful, because it allowed us as players to come together into different small groups and get to learn more about each other because we all come from different backgrounds and different coaches,” Oklahoma State wide receiver Braydon Johnson said. “It’s good just to come together and talk about things like that, things that are going on in the world, because it brings us together as a team, and brings us closer.
“A lot of guys didn’t know much about each other, so I felt like it brought us together more.”
One of the biggest movements from the NBA players is an attempt to get people out to vote in the upcoming presidential election. At the college level, the Big 12 basketball coaches have already made a commitment to make Nov. 3 a day off to allow players to vote.
While there hasn’t been any known stance from football coaches as it falls down the stretch run of the season – with Oklahoma State scheduled to travel to Kansas State the week of the election – that isn’t going to hold back players from partaking in the voting process.
“Definitely, I’m going to vote,” said Johnson, who turns 22 in December. “I feel like it’s just good to vote. I’m not against it if people don’t want to, but I feel like I’m going to vote this year.”
Johnson said the topic of voting hasn’t been brought up among teammates.
But if 2020 has shown anything – especially around Oklahoma State the past several months – it's that conversation can be created within the next two months leading into the election.