Billy Reed: During turbulent times, highly-paid coaches need to lead, set examples for their players

Billy Reed: During turbulent times, highly-paid coaches need to lead, set examples for their players
Billy Reed

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – In 38 of our 50 states, the highest paid state employee is a college football or basketball coach.

That is obscene, considering how underpaid teachers are, but it’s even worse when you consider how silent the coaches have been about the rise in mass killings, many in classrooms, and racism in our troubled society.

If some coaching or group of coaches has stepped up to address these issues, I hope somebody lets me know because I haven’t seen it or heard it. This is a complete abdication of the coaches’ role as leaders and educators.

The college football season starts in a couple of weeks, and almost every team in America has a preponderance of African-American players. I believe the coaches need to stand up for those young men by denouncing racism as individuals and/or organizations.

They also should lend their voices to supporting stringent gun laws. What’s it going to take to get them to stand up? A gunman going into a school and killing a five-star recruit? These killers don’t care if their victims are athletes. They just want to use their assault weapons to kill as many as they can as fast as they can.

It must be especially confusing for college football and basketball teams that belong to the Southeastern or Atlantic Coast conferences. President Donald Trump, who does not have the same contempt for racists that many of us do, is popular in all these states. This is the home of his base. So is it not hypocritical for fans to cheer the African-American players during games and swear allegiance to Trump at their tailgate parties?

To me, the issues of gun control and racism should not be political. They are human issues that should concern every American, including the coaches who are being paid exorbitant salaries to set a positive example for their players and their fans.

But apparently the coaches don’t want to offend anybody in their fan base. Forget about doing the right and moral thing. Just stick your head in the sand and pretend like everything is normal in today’s America.

I suspect that most coaches sympathize with what used to be the Republican Party. But that party no longer exists. It has been replaced by a cult of hatred and intolerance that deserves only rejection.

So where are you, National Association of Basketball Coaches? And its sister organization for football coaches? And the Fellowship of Christian Athletes? Don’t you think you need to step up and protect your African-American players? Don’t you think it’s time to denounce the gun violence that is taking so many of our young people away from us?

I fear it’s only a matter of time before something ugly happens at a game. The killers have done their evil in theaters and shopping malls, so why not a game? Sports does not exist in a bubble. Sports is not immune from the evil that permeates today’s society.

I’d like to see just one coach from the SEC or the ACC step up and announce that if any hate crime happens in their state during the season, they will hold out their African-American players for the next game. That might anger a large portion of his fan base, and it might even lead to his firing, but it would make that coach a profile in courage for many of us.

It won’t happen, of course. So many coaches are making so much money that they won’t do anything to rock the boat, and never mind that saying about “bad things happen when good men remain silent.”

I have the feeling that if Dean Smith, the late North Carolina basketball coach, were still with us, he would have no problem renouncing racism and gun violence. He was never afraid to take a stand on issues beyond basketball. But where are the Dean Smiths of today? I’m afraid they don’t exist.

I’d like to see every coach making more than $1 million a year agree to donate a certain percentage of his salary to a fund dedicated to fighting racism and promoting stricter gun safety laws. That would set a glowing example for their players and their fan base.

What I expect, however, is just more silence.

Billy Reed is a longtime sportswriter and regular contributor of sports columns to Contact him at

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