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CMU coaches, AD speak out against racism


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Michael Alford paces the sideline before Central Michigan takes on Wisconsin Sept. 7 at Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin.

George Floyd's death on May 25 in Minneapolis after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes sparked a national outrage against police brutality and systemic racism. 

Central Michigan athletic director Michael Alford issued a statement May 31 and said he will work with his fellow campus leaders to provide a welcoming environment. 

"As I reflect on what is happening across our nation," Alford said, "I continue to come back to the same point: we have a long way to go to ensure everyone is valued and treated equally. Throughout my life, I have learned how athletics brings together people from all different backgrounds to trust and compete together as one team. 

"I soundly echo President Davies' statement about how it takes all of us to make this happen. This cannot just be something we talk about when issues arise nationwide, but something we work together on every day. It takes action. I am committed to working with the president and campus leadership to continue building on an environment that welcomes, embraces and recognizes everybody," Alford added.

"We will listen, we will learn and we will respect all people." 

Five days later, June 4, men's basketball coach Keno Davis issued a statement on his Twitter page and said he wants to help create that welcoming environment.

Davis said he is also working to help enact change. 

Central Michigan head coach Keno Davis looks opposing team's score during a game against Michigan-Dearborn Nov. 5 at McGuirk Arena.

"In support of our student-athletes and all those affected by racism and social injustice across the nation," Davis said, "our program is committed to creating an environment where all people are respected, valued and treated with dignity. We look forward to our players returning to campus to not only better ourselves as students and athletes, but more importantly, as people. We will work together with our campus leaders to help enact change in our community and beyond."

A day later, June 5, women's basketball coach Heather Oesterle issued a statement of her own on her Twitter page. 

Oesterle's statement, however, had an anecdote from co-worker and former CMU assistant coach Raina Harmon. Oesterle and Harmon, who now works at Iowa as an assistant coach for the Hawkeyes, worked together from 2012-2017. 

"As a white woman that comes from a predominantly white community, I have never had to experience injustice because of the color of my skin," Oesterle said in her statement. "A few years ago a co-worker of mine, Raina Harmon, began bringing attention to the inequity that black people are still facing in this country. 

Central Michigan coach Heather Oesterle coaches during a timeout against Bowling Green Feb. 15 at McGuirk Arena.

"That realization was difficult and enraging for me. Her experiences were eye-opening, and at times, made me ashamed that I was afforded so many privileges that not everyone has, and for which I took for granted. To say I understand coming out of the black community would be presumptuous. However, I am committed to expanding my knowledge of the tribulations experienced by my brothers and sisters of color and try to make a difference in our community," Oesterle added. 

"My heart hurts for George Floyd, his family and the countless other victims of unnecessary violence. 

"Now is not the time to be silent as a white American. Silence renders us complicit to the injustice. Now is the time to listen, educate yourself and help be part of the change. My role as the leader of our program as well as a leader in this community, it is now my role to be a leader for change. Every person of color should be able to feel safe in their community and in the United States."

On June 9, CMU football coach Jim McElwain tweeted a statement with a heavy emphasis on family and how a family must come together during difficult times. 

McElwain said he and his football team are working with university leaders to create a respectful community at CMU where everyone feels valued. 

"Karen (McElwain's wife) and I have been horrified by the recent senseless killings of countless African-Americans," McElwain said. "These tragedies highlight the long struggle against racial injustice fought daily by many of our players. We must not let them struggle alone. We are more than a football team — we are a family. And we stand up for family. 

Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain walks down the tunnel toward the field before the second half of the MAC Championship game Dec. 7 at Ford Field in Detroit, MI. 

"To the guys I've played with, to those I've coached with, to my former, current and future players, to the incredible people we have been so fortunate to have met at each stop of our journey, and to your families who have been subjected to racism and discrimination: We are with you," McElwain continued. 

"A statement like this isn't a solution, it is a starting point. Now, we must take meaningful action. We will examine our team practices and behaviors. We will actively practice our university's core values of respect, integrity and compassion, and we will speak against racism and injustice. As a team, we will model inclusivity and equality, and use our platform to work for positive change in our community and beyond. 

"We are committed to working alongside President Davies, Athletic Director Michael Alford and the entire CMU community to create an environment where every individual feels valued and respected."

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