On Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, numerous Ohio State football players and coaches shared their reflections and hopes for the future through social media on Friday.
Ohio State compiled thoughts from 10 of them – quarterback Justin Fields, linebacker Baron Browning, defensive end Zach Harrison, guard Wyatt Davis, linebacker Teradja Mitchell, defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, running backs coach Tony Alford, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and head coach Ryan Day – in a post on its Instagram page on Friday afternoon.
Johnson shared a quote from civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., while Davis reflected through a quote from Malcolm X. Browning referenced the song “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. Fields said he believes Friday's holiday “symbolizes the promise of a new beginning and a hope for a better tomorrow, where real and lasting social justice will finally be achieved.”
“In the spirit of Juneteenth, let us reflect back on the work and sacrifice of our ancestors, celebrate those achievements, and then pick up the mantle to continue their work of rooting out inequality and injustice wherever it may be found,” Fields wrote.
Happy Juneteenth. pic.twitter.com/m3jrA4RARw— Justin Fields (@justnfields) June 19, 2020
Harrison, who was named this week as a member of the Big Ten Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition, said it is a time “to look to the future, continue to appreciate black culture and continue to take steps for the equality for all.” Mitchell encouraged his followers to “take this day to connect with someone from a different culture than you, in hopes to grasp a sense of unity.” Garrett encouraged everyone to “take this moment to rejoice in how far we've come as a ‘HUMAN RACE’” and “spread that unconditional love to one another.”
Day made it clear that his players have his support as they continue to speak up about social issues and call for change.
“I am proud of our student-athletes and this program for the example they've set and for their belief and actions to fight for change,” Day said. “I look forward to continuing the dialogue with them and will encourage and support the need for change as we move forward.”
Day and a multitude of Ohio State football players teamed up earlier this month to produce a video that called for change and fighting against racism after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May. One day later, team captains C.J. Saunders and Tuf Borland were among those who led a student-athlete demonstration on campus in which Ohio State athletes and staff kneeled for nine minutes in honor of Floyd.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who is also on the Big Ten's coalition, has stated that the Ohio State athletic department supports the Black Lives Matter movement and that he supports athletes' right to protest and to be a part of the conversation about racial injustices that are still present in America today. In a Twitter post of his own on Friday, Smith encouraged his followers to “embrace today as an opportunity to educate ourselves and better cultivate relationships among cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities.”
Juneteenth. Freedom Day. Jubilee Day. Liberation Day.— gene smith (@OSU_AD) June 19, 2020
Today (June 19) is observed in different ways. Lets embrace today as an opportunity to educate ourselves and better cultivate relationships among cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities. pic.twitter.com/sve4mkCYDb
Ohio State is encouraging anyone who wants to learn more about Juneteenth to visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion's website.