“I am angry, I am hurting.”
Syracuse University football coach Dino Babers chose those words Wednesday to begin his first public statement in the form of a letter, posted to his social media account and the SU football media platforms, since worldwide protests calling for police reform and an end to racial injustices started nearly two weeks ago.
Babers shared personal experiences and apologized for his wait to speak out while explaining his reflection process in the heartfelt message addressed to “Orange Nation.”
Babers stated that the recent deaths of “George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other innocent black lives that have been taken is wrong and inexcusable,” while speaking to the pain that the nation and families around the SU community are feeling.
“I am the head football coach at Syracuse University,” Babers continued in the letter. “I am a father, I am a son, I am a friend, and I am a black man. I am a black man that understands the rules of engagement when confronted by law enforcement — keep both hands where they can see them, do not make sudden moves, do not talk back, be respectful, and pray I don’t become a statistic. I was taught this at an age where my only worries should have been what time my friends can come out to play, where can I ride my bike, or making sure I was in the house when the street lights came on.”
Babers continued: “As I grew older and watched what happened to other black men in these situations, it became crystal clear of why these rules of engagement could one day save my life.”
The 58-year-old Babers is entering his fifth season as SU football coach and has 36 years of college football coaching experience. He grew up alternating between military bases and civilian housing throughout the 1960s and ‘70s.
“I lived through the civil rights movement,” Babers expressed. “I was alive when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. I was alive when black men and women were forced to use separate water fountains, separate restrooms, and could not eat in certain restaurants. What is a history book to others, and news to some now, is the life I’ve been living. Now is the time to put a light on it.”
Babers then stated that he understood the disappointment expressed by some members of the SU football community and fans for his delay in speaking out compared to many in the sports world, including key figures within SU athletics.
“To the entire Orange Nation, I am sorry,” Babers stated. “I needed to process. I needed to pray, I needed to talk to my wife, my daughters and my son-in-laws, I needed to speak to the ‘Ohana and La Familia’ (SU players and staff). I needed to listen to their pain while I processed my own.”
Babers continued: “The Orange family has shown me the power of coming together. Amidst the trauma and conflict, unity holds great power for change. It takes people from all walks of life to see true change. Our words must be put into action this time.”
Babers closed his letter by encouraging community members to take action and to remain open to listening and holding conversations with family and friends.
“Now is the time to listen, don’t wait for your turn to talk, open your ears,” Babers stated. “Knowledge is power. Educate yourself, register to vote.”
Babers concluded his statement with the following before stamping his signature to the bottom of the letter: “As a young coach, I was told: ‘You are either coaching it or allowing it to happen.’ All lives won’t matter until Black Lives Matter. We are either going to address the systematic racism and injustice or we are allowing it to happen. As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another. Forever Orange.”
The full letter from Babers can be viewed at https://twitter.com/CoachBabersCuse.