Michigan State's Tom Izzo Says He Has a 'Duty' to Speak out Against Racism

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2020

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo reacts reacts during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Penn State, Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/John Beale)
John Beale/Associated Press

Michigan State men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo released a statement on Monday, saying he had a duty and an obligation to speak out against racism, to support former and current Black players and to not tolerate hatred at the university. 

"As white Americans, we sometimes think it's enough to say that we aren't racist," he wrote. "But that's selfish—that's just being worried about ourselves. In life, as in sports, the best leaders care about others, and influence others to act. Those of us in privileged positions must not stop using our platform to influence others to join and continue the fight."

You can read his full statement below:

That came in the wake of the university opening an investigation earlier in June against an employee in the Strategic Infrastructure Planning and Facilities department for writing racist posts on Facebook. In a separate investigation, a supervisor was fired by the university for making racist remarks. 

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Izzo, 65, also changed his stance on Colin Kaepernick's decision in 2016 to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games to protest racial discrimination and police brutality. In the aftermath of that protest, many athletes around the sporting world also took a knee.

Izzo had the team stand for the anthem, though they did wear warm-up shirts for certain games that said "We Talk, We Listen" on one side and "It's Not About Me, It's About Us" on the other.

He told 97.1 the Ticket's The Jaime and Stoney Show last week that speaking with current and former players during the current marches and gatherings around the nation in protest of those same issues helped him change his tune (h/t Andrew Brewster of Spartans Wire):

"Listen, I learn lessons, too. And I'm still learning at this age. I said to my team—I had a lot of Zoom calls, and then when we got 'em here, I met with them outside, legal or illegal, because I thought I had an obligation to talk to them. I had talked to some of our former players, from [Mateen] Cleaves to [Steve] Smith to [Greg] Kelser and Magic [Johnson], and all the guys before. and I did talk to all those people to try and get a good feel.

"And what I realized is I wasn't real happy with the Colin Kaepernick thing when it happened. I guess like a lot of people I looked at it as, what are we doing? The flag, all this stuff. And yet, as I look back on it, how ignorant am I? Because that was a peaceful protest."

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