Clemson Football Players Lead Unity March

By: Darby Childress

A March for Change

On Saturday, June 13, 2020, we came together on Bowman field to stand on a united front to demand change, justice, and equality throughout the nation in a beautiful, peaceful rally brought together by Darien Rencher, Mike Jones Jr., Cornell Powell, and Trevor Lawrence.
This came the day after Clemson’s Board of Trustees voted to change the name of Calhoun’s Honor College to Clemson’s Honor College and have sent a request to the state legislature to return Tillman Hall to its former name Old Main. These athletes made it clear that this was just a step in the right direction, but not the only thing that needs changing. Darien stated, “Change is a process and an end result, so I say we have made steps but we all know there is work to be done”. When asked about his thoughts when people say that they are athletes and should stay out of politics Cornell Powell stated: “I just started being a football player, I have been a black man my entire life”. This was followed up later on when Mike Jones Jr. spoke and said “one day my football career will end and I will just be another black man. I will go from an athlete to matching a description.”

Before the start of the march, Darien called for an eight-minute and forty-seven second moment of silence in honor of George Floyd. He asked us to reflect on a few different topics throughout this time, family, our nation, change, among others.
During the two-mile-long march, four thousand people came together in a cry for change. People of all backgrounds, races, religious beliefs, and sexualities, all came together to say that things need to change. Chants, led by the team, could be heard throughout the march such as “When I say Black Lives you say Matter”, “Say his name- George Floyd”, “Say her name- Breonna Taylor” to name a few. It was such a powerful movement that many in the crowd started their

own chants. The march had people coming out of restaurants, and stores to see what was going on, and allowed them to see, and hear, the cries for equality.
A statement from Darien that hit home for many was “All lives won’t matter until Black Lives Matter” not stating that all lives do not matter but we as a society cannot say that they do until we are all treated equally regardless of skin color.

Following the end of the march, the crowd gathered back at Bowman field for some closing remarks. Head coach Dabo Swinney came up for a nine-minute speech were he stated “this is how things get done, it can never be just one side, it takes synergy. It takes people working together”. He went on to say that “its a challenging time”, “it takes challenge to create change”, “Nobody should feel less or should be treated as less because of the color of their skin”. He called for people to push for justice, and to bring an end to systemic racism and police brutality. He stated that “it has to be everyone’s responsibility, not just some people’s responsibility, everybody’s responsibility to be more aware, to learn more, and to speak out against racial inequality”. He called for a united front against racial injustice. Throughout the week leading up to the march, many players took to social media to say “if you show up on Saturdays show up this Saturday”. Dabo went on to speak on this when he said: “We should no longer expect our players to hear our cheers if we do not hear their cries”. He went further to say that he has always said “nothing exemplifies what the world needs more than a football team” and that he’d like to “go to congress and I’d like to dress them all out in some pads and some helmets” and take them through some one-on-ones and make some real progress. Dabo stood in front of everyone, following a week of turmoil and attacks against his name, to make it clear that he stands with his team and the students at Clemson University.

Trevor Lawerence then came up and spoke on how he has “been uncomfortable”. He stated that he believes “every truly good thing in life comes from being brave and stepping into the uncomfortable”. He went on to say how it is “uncomfortable to set aside everything I know about America and listen to someone else’s perspective, however it is necessary.” Trevor spoke on how he has learned how to use his platform and massive following to invoke change. He called for everyone to “listen, learn, and love, even when it is uncomfortable”.

Following the speeches, Darien told the story of the popular song “Amazing Grace”. He educated the crowd on the origins of the song, that it was written by a former slave owner who was traveling on a boat that was about to sink and he prayed and said if God got him through that he would change his ways. Then Darien brought a band on the stage to play “Amazing Grace” and the crowd sang along to a song about the change that is needed in our society.
Once that was done Darien called for us to link arms as he and his fellow players did and prayed for us, for change, and our nation.
This march was not a call for war or separation. It was a call for unity in a time when it feels that we as a nation are divided. “Black people have been fighting for a long time in a country that hasn’t completely fought for us” as Darien put it. These players successfully, and peacefully, used their platforms to go beyond what was expected of them and create change and unity within Clemson nation. This rally was a call to listen, and learn from our history, as Dabo put it “there is no hope for a better yesterday, a better last year or a better last two hundred years, but there is hope in the future”.

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