You may have heard about this exchange ($$) at Smart’s weekend presser:
Smart avoided weighing in on Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game being pulled from Atlanta in the wake of the state’s recently signed election legislation. The coach was asked Saturday if there was any concern about the SEC championship or future national championship games. being pulled from Atlanta.
“Yeah, I try my best to keep my head down and continue to work on our team, and what we have to deal with with our players, and I certainly worry about the mental state with our players, and I talk about what we’ve talked about before, the ability to have safe space and open conversations,” Smart said. “But I don’t get into the political side of it.”
Discretion being the better part of valor, I don’t blame him a bit for deflecting. But you know who doesn’t have that luxury?
That would be Mr. Greg Sankey. If he’s not hearing anything yet, give it time.
Before you scoff, the NCAA, the SEC and the UGA football program have been public about making sure college athletes are empowered in positive ways. Here’s an example from last fall:
Ahead of arguably the biggest game of Georgia’s season, the Bulldogs will not be practicing on Tuesday. The Florida Gators, who have lost three straight to Georgia and missed practice time in October due to a COVID-19 outbreak, will also not be practicing.
The entire sport will not be practicing on Tuesday due to an NCAA mandated off day to allow student-athletes the opportunity to go vote…
“I think it’s very important for them to give us a chance to do that,” offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer said. “Us being allowed to go have our voice heard is probably one of the most game-changing things I’ve seen in a while. Our age group is one of the most influential age groups across the country. For us as football players to go out and voice our opinions to get to say who we want to be in office I think is really important.”
The day off does cause a disruption for teams, as Tuesday is usually a key day in preparing for the coming Saturday. And for Georgia, not that many players will actually be voting on Tuesday.
But that’s because over 90 percent of the Georgia football team has already voted according to Kirby Smart’s estimate.
“It’s unique now that it was such a point of emphasis on our athletic department and our athletic administration did a great job of getting 100 percent of our student-athletes to vote,” Smart said.
And let’s not forget the impetus behind Mississippi changing its state flag last year.
And on June 22, in the sleepy town of Starkville, Kylin Hill called for the state of Mississippi to remove from its flag poles a chilling reminder of the Old South. Mississippi was the last remaining U.S. state to feature the Confederate battle flag cross on such a celebrated symbol, all the while holding a larger proportion of Black residents (38%) than any other state.
“Either change the flag,” Hill’s tweet read, “or I won’t be representing this State anymore 💯 & I mean that .. I’m tired.”
They opened a door. It won’t be possible to close that door. If the cries to move start coming hard over the summer — it should make for some interesting questions at SEC Media Days, for one thing — and players start chiming in, Sankey won’t be able to, as Smart put it, stay out of “the political side of things”. Either way, he won’t have an easy choice to make.
Your thoughts on this and anything else are welcomed in the comments, as always.