The Alabama football team marched for social justice on Monday, and head coach Nick Saban led the way.
The team began its march at the Mal Moore Athletics Facility just after 4 p.m. local time and worked its way to Foster Auditorium on Alabama’s campus in Tuscaloosa. Foster Auditorium is known for the “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” incident in June 1963, where Alabama Gov. George Wallace stood in the building’s doorway in an effort to block the university from integrating and allowing two Black students to register for classes.
Najee Harris, a senior running back who announced the event on social media on Friday, invited athletes from other Alabama sports to join the march. Hundreds did just that and were on hand to hear Harris and other representatives speak on the steps of Foster Auditorium.
Harris, in a tweet last week, said the players want their “voices to be heard as we strike to enact social change and rid our world of social injustices.” On Monday, Harris was front and center during the march. He marched next to Saban wearing a “Defend Black Lives” T-shirt. When addressing the crowd, Harris acknowledged the deliberate choice of Foster Auditorium as the location for the event as part of his prepared remarks.
“We walked to this schoolhouse door intentionally because while much has changed in the last 57 years, too many things have not,” Harris said according to Rivals. “So in this moment, we as student-athletes need to play our part in bringing out positive change. We need change in our system of law enforcement. We need change in our community. We need change in our hearts.”
Saban, Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne and university police chief John Hooks were among the other speakers at Monday’s event.
“Today I’m like a proud parent,” Saban said. “I’m proud of our team, I’m proud of our messengers over here and I’m very proud of the message.”
Monday’s event was sparked amid the nationwide outcry that has followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back multiple times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he tried to get into his vehicle. The incident was captured on video. An attorney for the Blake family has said three of his children were in the car.
The Blake shooting sparked athletes in an array of sports to speak up, including the Milwaukee Bucks deciding not to play their first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. That move sparked postponements across the NBA before the postseason resumed Saturday. In college football, an array of teams decided not to practice with many preceding Alabama with marches against racial injustice and police brutality.
Saban has been supportive of players’ social justice efforts
In Tuscaloosa, Saban has been vehement in his support of his players throughout the offseason with Monday’s march as the most recent example. Back in June, the Crimson Tide football program released a powerful video speaking out against racism. The script of the video was written by Alabama tackle Alex Leatherwood and features Saban speaking along with several of his players.
On the field, Alabama is preparing to play a 10-game, conference-only regular season. The Tide held their first scrimmage on Saturday and had Monday as a scheduled off day. The first game of the season is scheduled for Sept. 26 on the road against Missouri.
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