National Anthem

Boise State players and coaches stand for the national anthem before a game at the 2020 Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas. The program posted this photo along with a statement Sunday evening about the racial injustices happening across the country. 

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BOISE — Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin and men’s basketball coach Leon Rice both issued statements over the weekend condemning the racial injustices in the United States after George Floyd’s killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis sparked protests all across the country.

Rice and the men’s basketball team issued the statement jointly, saying in part, “We are angry and sad. There is no place in our communities for hatred or racism. The world is watching as each one of us chooses how we will respond in words and in actions.

“This is a chance for us to make a lasting impact on our families, our university, our communities and beyond. We vow to use the anger and frustration we all feel as fuel to enact change for good.”

Rice held a virtual team meeting Sunday with players and their families to “discuss and reflect on our thought and feeling as individuals and as a group. The time together was cathartic, but it was also just the beginning.” He consulted with members of his coaching staff and his players — past, present and future — as well as their families, while putting together the statement.

“We can make a meaningful difference, and we are going to,” the statement continued. “Please join us in honoring the legacy of George Floyd and commit to action in your local communities.”

Harsin’s statement Saturday came hours after he was criticized by former Boise State football player Jason Robinson for staying silent on the issue during a 15-minute video posted to Twitter.

Robinson called on Harsin to “step up for the people in the building that come to work every day … all the players, black and white” by using his status to help ignite meaningful discussions and change in regard to the racial injustices that continue across the country.

Harsin released a statement a few hours later as an apparent response to Robinson’s video that said, “Football has provided a platform to have meaningful conversations, and more often than not those conversations happen within the walls of our facility. Our culture has resulted in myriad successes, not the least of which being countless well-rounded, thoughtful young men leaving here and going on to impact change in the world.

“With what is going on right now in our country, it has become clear that the conversations we have as a team need to spread beyond our walls. The hate, the discord, the belief that voices are falling on deaf ears — it needs to change. Now. There is no place for it in our program, and it shouldn’t have a place in our society. We all need to be better, and it starts with each and every one of us caring for all we encounter, regardless of color, politics or any other differences we might have.”

Video surfaced May 25 of Floyd repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin continued to kneel on his neck while he lay on the ground. As bystanders continued to plead with Chauvin and other officers to let him up, Floyd eventually began to lose consciousness and was pronounced dead later that night.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired the next day, and Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. An investigation into the other three officers continues.

The death triggered daily protests in Minneapolis and across the country that continued through the weekend.

Statements from athletes and coaches speaking out against Floyd’s death and the continued issue of racial injustice poured in from across the country, including at Boise State.

“This team has been put together for a higher calling,” the statement from Boise State’s basketball team read. “Everyone in our program is built for standing up on the challenges facing our society and we can make a difference. We need to put both feet in, using our team culture and our individual values and convictions as our guide, and make our position and our actions known. It will make us better as people and community members.”

A photo showing four black players and three white coaches, including Rice standing for the national anthem accompanied the statement.

Assistant men’s basketball coach Mike Burns posted a personal statement on his Twitter account, saying, “We need to fight to end systemic racism that has prayed upon so many in our black and brown communities. Those perpetuating the hate must be held to account. After the protests have subsided, we must remember that our voice will speak loudest at the ballot box this November.”

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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