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Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s OAN T-shirt spurs outrage from star players

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy walks on the sideline during a game against Oklahoma on Nov. 30, 2019.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy walks on the sideline during a game against Oklahoma on Nov. 30.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

Oklahoma State on Monday became the latest college campus to reckon with athletes’ desire for social change, after a photo of football coach Mike Gundy wearing a One America News Network shirt was circulated online.

Cowboys running back and potential Heisman Trophy contender Chuba Hubbard was the first player to react Monday morning, seemingly threatening in a tweet to sit out because of Gundy’s display of OAN, a conservative, pro-Trump cable news channel whose anchors have been critical of liberal social movements, including Black Lives Matter.

Hubbard’s statement, tweeted above the posted photo of Gundy, read: “I will not stand for this.. This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it’s unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.”

A modicum of change came hours later, as Hubbard and Gundy stood together for a video tweeted out on Hubbard’s account.

“In light of today’s tweet with the T-shirt I was wearing, I met with some players and realized it’s a very sensitive issue, with what’s going on in today’s society,” Gundy said. “We had a great meeting. [Was] made aware of some things that players feel like can make our organization or our culture even better than it is here at Oklahoma State. Looking forward to making some changes. It starts at the top with me. We got good days ahead.”

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In the video, Hubbard expressed regret for tweeting about his frustration instead of first addressing it directly with Gundy, but the running back said “from now on, we’re going to focus on bringing change, and that’s the most important thing.”

The coach and player appeared several feet apart in the video. When Gundy spoke, Hubbard stood and stared at the camera with his arms crossed. He did not become animated until he spoke.

At the end of the video, the two embraced with a handshake and hug.

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Before the posting of the video, Oklahoma State’s president and athletic director issued statements regarding the issue.

“I hear and respect the concerns expressed by our Black student-athletes,” school president Burns Hargis said. “This is a time for unity of purpose to confront racial inequities and injustice. We will not tolerate insensitive behavior by anyone at Oklahoma State.”

Said athletic director Mike Holder: “This afternoon has been very disturbing. The tweets from the current and former players are of grave concern.”

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Athletes at other schools have voiced displeasure and desire for change, either on their campuses or with the country at-large, in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality and social inequality.

At the University of Texas, a group of athletes last week called for a litany of changes, including the renaming of several buildings, the donation of athletic funds to Black organizations, and the replacement of the school’s fight song, “The Eyes of Texas.”

At Clemson, where football coach Dabo Swinney recently received criticism after a former player accused one of the team’s assistant coaches of using the n-word, several players — including quarterback Trevor Lawrence — helped organize a peaceful on-campus protest Saturday against systemic racism that Swinney attended.

When counterprotesters displaying Confederate flags organized before the Clemson demonstration, incoming Tigers quarterback and St. John Bosco product DJ Uiagalelei tweeted in response, “Dang this crazy because this is where I go to school and I also call my second home ... sad to see this.”

At Iowa, strength coach Chris Doyle reached a separation agreement with the program Monday after several former players accused him of mistreating Black players.

Athletes from many other programs around the nation have participated in protests as well, a trend Ramogi Huma, the executive director of the National College Players Assn., believes could continue into the football season this fall.

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“I think the players are committed to using their platform to keep this issue in the limelight,” Huma said, “The players have always had this power. It’s just never been channeled. The racial unrest in policing has really opened that up.”

But Hubbard’s threat to not participate came as one of the most striking comments yet. After finishing eighth in Heisman voting during a 2,094-yard, 21-touchdown rushing season in 2019, Hubbard is considered a serious contender for the award in 2020.

Hubbard received support from several teammates, including linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, the team’s defensive MVP in 2019, who tweeted, “I stand with him!”

Former Cowboys running back Justice Hill, who plays for the Baltimore Ravens, also tweeted in agreement.

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“OSU Athletics and University need major change,” Hill’s tweet read. “100% support brotha.”

Huma looked at the incident as an indication of players’ mounting frustrations.

“It’s not just a T-shirt,” he said. “In [Hubbard’s] eyes, he might feel this is an attack, this is a negative influence on the positive change that’s needed. You don’t see star players just up and threaten to quit over your average social issue.”

Huma, who has long battled for the rights of college athletics in the NCAA’s amateurism system, sees such recent displays of social activism as more examples of student-athletes seizing their power.

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“This all starts and stops,” he said, “with the players‘ voices.”

Times staff writer Ryan Kartje contributed to this report.


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