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George Ferguson Column: To so many coaches I already respect and admire, thank you for speaking up, and speaking out

From The Fringe...


Like millions of Americans, I’ve had a heavy heart the last 10 days or so.

My heart has been heavy from the moment I watched the horrific video of George Floyd’s murder and nothing that has happened since I first saw it has been able to fix what I feel.

I feel pain and sadness from George Floyd’s murder, because I abhor racism of any kind. I feel pain and sadness because I have always tried to stand up for racial injustice and inequality, and I feel pain and sadness right now because, I believe in equality, I believe in basic human decency. I believe in treating others how I want to be treated.

And when something like the murder of George Floyd happens, it not only hurts me inside, it angers me. But eventually, that anger turns to a sadness I just can't shake.

I’m saddened because, I want to try and believe that we've made progress in this country when it comes to racism. I want so badly to believe that, from the Civil Rights movement, to Rodney King and so on, that we should have made so much more progress — but, this past week has shown, we’re not there, at least as one country, we’re not even close.

We’re not close, and so, I will continue to try and speak my feelings when I deem it necessary, and one thing I won’t be is a hypocrite. I feel it’s my responsibility as a sports journalist to stand up against racial injustice, and not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t.

If I, as someone who covers, writes about, and ultimately makes money off of sports that, at the local level, include many, many young Native Americans, and many young African Americans, didn’t take a stand against racism, then, as they say, I wouldn’t only be a hypocrite, I would be part of the problem. So, as I said above, I’ll always make a stand. I’ll always make sure I do what I can to bring these issues to the forefront. I won’t sweep them under the rug.

And just know, none of what I have just written about myself is a political ideology. It has nothing to do with how or who I vote for, or what side of an isle I may or may not sit on.

No, how I feel about racial injustice and equality stems from something much more simple. It's how I was raised.

My single mother, an educator of now more than 30 years, taught me, and my brother and sister to respect everyone. She taught us to not see color, to reject racism, and to treat each other how we want to be treated.

She also taught us to speak our minds, and to stand up for what is right and just, and, for what we believe in.

If somewhere along the way, I had lost sight of what she taught me, I feel I would have been letting her down, and I have never wanted to do that.

Instead, I took how I was raised, and, to the best of my abilities, have tried to live up to it. In other words, I've tried my hardest, and though I have, like anyone else, not been perfect at it, I've still given it my all to just be a good person and be good to everyone. I've always tried to live by that, and honestly, it has never really been that hard for me.

Still, I also am not interested in tooting my horn. Standing up for racial injustice, being sickened and appalled by what happened to George Floyd, I’m not special or unique because of how I feel. No, as we’ve seen in the past week, millions upon millions of Americans have stood up, showing, they feel the same way I do.

And I want to say thank you to some of them — in particular — so many people I know and respect in our coaching community.

I want to say thank you to Montana State University-Northern head football coach Andrew Rolin, I want to say thank you to former Lights' star quarterback and new Montana Tech head coach Kyle Samson. Those are two people I know personally. And I want them to know that, their powerful words they spoke this week about racial injustice, about inequality, and about the murder of George Floyd, their words hit home, their words were emotional, meaningful and they moved me. And they weren’t just words, they were actions because, by speaking up, they were taking a stand, and I respect that so much.

Yes, I have seen and heard from coaches from all over the state. I’ve seen their powerful words. Both Montana State head coach Jeff Choate and Montana head football coach Bobby Hauck have spoken up, and spoken out. They are two of the most high-profile sports figures in our state, so for them to take a stand, to speak up and speak out, it sends a very powerful message. And, it’s also unifying because, while I may not cheer for the Bobcats Saturday afternoon’s in the fall, when I listen to their head coach speak so intelligently, so eloquently and passionately about his feelings on racism and social injustice, you can damn sure bet I respect that man.

So, from a diehard Griz alum, thank you, coach Choate, thank you for speaking up. Thank you MSU head coach basketball coach Danny Sprinkle, thank you coach Hauck, thank you for using your platform, your profile to stand up for what’s right. Thank you for not sweeping anything under the rug.

And that’s my point here. I didn’t sit down to write this column so that I could feel good about taking a stand against racism. I don’t need, nor do I want a pat on the back for just being myself, for upholding my responsibilities as someone who has a platform to stand against racial and social injustice.

Instead, I want to thank so many others for doing it. I want to thank all my friends in the coaching community because your message has been heard. I want to thank even coaches I don’t know personally, like Carroll College head basketball coach Kurt Paulson, or new Montana women’s basketball coach Mike Petrino. Thank you for speaking out, because it’s your words that people see and hear. It’s your words that truly matter.

Just know, as well, any who read this, just because you may not have been mentioned in this column, doesn't mean I exclude or don't know the good work you all do on this very subject either. In fact, just about every coach I know on a personal level, here in Havre, or beyond, and many of my own mentors, are all people I know who would, will and have stood up for racial and social injustices. So, while in this column I chose to focus on the words I read and heard this week, it doesn't mean I am forgetting anyone else who will take this stand with us.

And that's what this is about in the end. For the last week, reading and hearing so many people I respect speak out against racism and injustices, it’s meant the world to me, because I believe, coaches like Choate and Hauck, and so many others, men who lead young athletes of all races and backgrounds, I believe you are not just taking a stand, I believe you are being heard, and ultimately, I believe you can make a difference.

And that’s something we can’t stop trying to do. We can’t stop trying to make it better. Just like we ask of our players, in any sport that we coach, we ask them not to give up, we ask them to try, to try their hardest and never quit. And it applies the same way when trying to affect change, we can’t give up. We at least, have to try.

So, to all of you coaches in Montana speaking up, and speaking out, to all of you who are trying — thank you. You all inspire me to not stop trying, too.


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