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Gators practice in wake of Jacob Blake protests; Dan Mullen addresses racial injustice

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
NBA referees march in support of players seeking an end to racial injustice in Lake Buena Vista on Thursday. Their march came shortly before players met to decide on restarting the season after three games were postponed Wednesday. Racial injustice was part of the discussion at Florida's football practice Thursday.

Florida football players and coaches elected to go ahead with their scheduled practice Thursday morning, but there were serious discussions before and after about what’s going on around the nation concerning racial and social injustice. And there will be more conversations in the future, coach Dan Mullen said.

Mullen

“It’s stuff we’ve talked about in the past. It’s stuff we talked about today,” Mullen said. “Our guys, they really enjoy being out there practicing, getting ready for a football season. But I think they're very conscious about using the platform that they have to (address racial injustice).

“We had a great discussion about it after practice, great discussion about everything. And I think we'll still have more. We've had some in the past, we had some today. We need to have more. We've got to find even better ways to do it, have good discussions within our team on things moving forward.”

Mullen talked to the players about the shooting of Jacob Blake and the intense reaction it has created within the Black Lives Matter movement — and in the sports world, where the NBA, WNBA and multiple Major League Baseball teams elected to sit out games Wednesday night in protest of the shooting and racial injustice.

Multiple UF players have been using social media to express their feelings about racial injustice over the past several weeks.

“They have a great opportunity right now, a lot of time to use their platform and do other things, and we discuss that outside of football,” he said. “Our guys, they really enjoy being out there practicing, getting ready for a football season. But I think they're very conscious about using the platform that they have to do it.”

Mullen talked to the players Thursday about change and people learning to be more accepting of others. For that to happen, it starts with education, he said.

“There's a lot of ignorant people in the world and one of the best things we can do is try to educate ignorant people, educate yourself and try to understand other people, and try to become educated,” he said. “The best way to respect somebody is to try to educate yourself about them, and if you do that, you have a chance of spreading a positive message. Spreading a great message of respect and love to other people in the world more than kind of hatred, ignorance.

“Go expand your horizons. Go expand what it is. Don’t just look at something and judge other people or don’t look at someone who is different than you and judge them, go learn about everything.”

Mullen was asked how racial injustice has affected him.

“(The shootings) are obviously terrible, scary things. I’ve never been in that situation, thankfully,” he said. “I hope I never am and I think it’s terrible that people that are in those situations are even in them. I think the better we can educate ourselves the better off we’ll be.”

Mullen said he has been educating himself over the past several months, and has seen changes in how he perceives himself and others and what’s going on around the country.

“Just the little things,” he said. “When Black Lives Matter comes out and people want to fight and say All Lives Matter, you look at that and say OK, I can see how that makes sense, and then you go educate yourself and go back and think about different things.

“Of course, all lives do matter, but that’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about this specific situation where we’re seeing racial injustice has happened and we’re trying to draw light to that.

“We’re not saying other things aren’t important, we’re trying to draw light to this. We’re trying to educate ourselves about the social injustices happening. It doesn’t mean, when you say Black Lives Matter it doesn’t mean I’m forgetting about other people. It means I’m focusing on the social injustice issues that we currently have in our country and let’s focus on that.”

Mullen said he and his coaching staff have encouraged the players to shine the light on social and racial injustices. And that's what many are doing.

“They speak for themselves, and we encourage them to do that,” he said. “We have a great platform, we have a platform just by the world we’re in. We can help people better understand things. We can help people by trying to become educated about other people, to try to learn about other people, to try to learn about other people’s backgrounds, to try to learn and respect other people’s backgrounds and not just draw assumptions.”