In the sea of social-justice statements flooding the sports world, Rutgers football landed maybe the most powerful team message.
The idea to create a video based around players – several of them young black men – calling for changes in social justice and condemning racism stood out Monday against the more common written words plastered over a team logo. The video was shot in black-and-white footage, not color.
“We are more than just football players here to entertain. We are people with thoughts, emotions and feelings. I feel pain, fear, sorrow, anger, hopelessness,” the video begins, with words taken from seven different players.
Coach Greg Schiano, hired in December for his second stint at Rutgers, explained Tuesday to The Post the inside story of how the video came to be:
“We called what was not a planned team meeting on Wednesday to just talk and for me and the coaches to listen,” Schiano said. “Had no idea where it would go, but I felt the players were incredibly mature, incredibly real. They shared their feelings and frustrations.”
The program quickly created a 20-person committee that includes a dozen players representing all grades and a variety of races, as well as coaches and other staff members, to address their response.
Five days later, the video, which includes a news report of George Floyd’s death resulting in a murder charge against Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin and ends with the voice of Martin Luther King Jr., was released.
“We didn’t want to do something just to do something,” Schiano said. “The coaches and players talked through it and decided this video would be our first step and be the best chance to express what we are feeling, thinking and hoping. I’m proud of our kids because I thought they were brave to step up and be part of it. A lot of thought and time went into it.”
Protests – some peaceful and others involving looting and violence – are a common sight this week in cities around the country.
Rutgers started a social media hashtag #Chop4Change as a long-term commitment to the cause. Schiano deferred sharing the next course of action to the committee, but said “there are opportunities that are going to approach quickly.”
“This is only a start,” Schiano said. “Now it’s a matter of, what are we going to continue to affect change? It’s going to be a continual thing. Slow and steady wins the race. This isn’t a flash in the pan and then we go back to business. This is part of our business. Community service has been that, but a more pointed effort in support of social justice.”
Schiano, 54, is a New Jersey native, so he can’t pretend to have similar life experiences to his teenage players in other parts of the country. But he has 30 years of college and NFL coach-player relationships to draw upon.
“Our players understand that we are very demanding, we’re going to challenge them,” Schiano said, “but there is nothing they can’t talk to us about. As the head coach, they need to know I’ve got their back.
“What’s important to them is important to me. I’m going to do everything in my power to help them and protect them. When young people know that, I think it gives them a sense of peace in a very tumultuous world.”