ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Before this gets woven into something it isn’t, it’s important to make one thing clear: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t “let” a small group of players — one being Jourdan Lewis — have a platform Saturday in order to express their beliefs regarding recent social injustices.
It was there. They did it.
Harbaugh didn’t “let” Lewis and Co. — David Dawson, Mike McCray and Channing Stribling — raise their fists during the National Anthem prior to a 49-10 win over Penn State. Players just exercised their right to voice an opinion on the growing issue of police violence, standing up for citizens everywhere.
Harbaugh didn’t mind, though. He’s all for free speech. With that said, he wasn’t approached for an OK. He didn’t sign-off on the non-protest. It happened. He was cool with it. End of story, at least as it pertains to the Wolverines’ second-year head coach.
“I was told when I came back into the locker room. My thoughts are: There’s a freedom of expression, and somebody can speak their mind,” Harbaugh said. “And I can tell you what I believe, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last four, five, six weeks. (Just) because I’m the football coach, that doesn’t mean that I can dictate to people what they believe…”
Harbaugh continued his explanation on self-expression:
“You know, I support our guys and I think this is something that’s good… it’s good… it’s (the issue/social stances) not going away. It’s good. It’s going to keep happening. It’s not something that’s going to keep him (players) out of Heaven. So I’m not really going to worry about it when it’s something that doesn’t keep somebody out of Heaven. They’re speaking their minds, so I support them.”
Again, Harbaugh had nothing to do with the political/self-expression that happened before the game. Nobody approached him with a plan. It just happened. But again, he was perfectly fine with their mode of delivery.
However, people need to talk about Charlotte, Ferguson, and Cleveland. They need to address the many other communities that have been impacted by police brutality, Harbaugh said.
Lewis, who made his season debut after suffering a lower-back injury, wanted to “bring awareness” to an important human issue. Forget being political. Forget police vs. citizen. Just think of humans being human to other humans. Don’t call it protest — ohh, don’t do that.
There was no protesting, he said, just the use of a platform to convey a simple message: Treat everyone with respect.
“(There is) injustice here in the country that we see. We’ve got to take notice of it,” said Lewis, who wants communities to “come together” in the wake of recent tragedies. “That’s really what it is. There’s nothing about disrespecting towards the country or anything like that — but (there are) injustices.”
Players have rights like everyone else in America. They also have a platform in order to stand up for those who don’t and can’t. A select few at Michigan chose to exercise those rights and platforms.
On Saturday, Lewis said that some players had mentioned doing something similar prior to the Penn State win, but it was just an idea at the time. Just conversation — never designs of a political uprising or movement. In fact, Lewis followed the lead of fellow teammates on Saturday — he didn’t organize a group or encourage any type of assembly.
The moment presented itself, he took advantage of it with some other players. Harbaugh didn’t know about it until after it had been done. He was fine with it, too.
So before this gets spun into Harbaugh encouraging players to stand up against police brutality, or flipped into how a few Wolverines felt compelled to organize, just remember this: That’s not what happened Saturday versus Penn State.
Don’t call it a protest by Michigan players. Call it seizing a moment to support being human.