Arians asks: ‘How far have we really come’?
He can’t help but think back to late 1960s
TAMPA – During the past few days, Bucs coach Bruce Arians has had to ask himself: How far have we really come?
Seeing America enveloped in racial tension again — this time sparked by the death of a black man while in police custody, a white officer’s knee on the back of his neck, the encounter caught on cellphone cameras — Arians, one of the NFL’s most vocal proponents of diversity and inclusion, says he can’t help but think back to the late 1960s.
That’s when, as a teenager in York, Pa., he watched National Guard tanks roll through the streets during race riots that swallowed the town in the summers of 1968 and ’69.
“There are times when I think we haven’t made any progress,” Arians said Thursday on a conference call with local media.
“What’s really improved since then? But a lot has.” Just not enough, he said. “It’s very disheartening,” Arians said. “Growing up in it and being a part of it, personally, you would hope that we would not be in 2020 still dealing with these issues. You would hope as a nation to have grown since 1968. I think we have, but not enough, obviously.”
Arians, a white man whose closest friends growing up were black, graduated from a city high school in York. As a college quarterback at Virginia Tech, he was the first white player to room with a black teammate.
He has used his authority as a coach to trumpet diversity, and his coaching staff is the only one in the NFL to have three black coordinators.
Though nearly 70 percent of the NFL’s players are black, the league has just four minority head coaches and two black general managers.
Arians called the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Minneapolis man who died in police custody last week, “sickening.” He is also disturbed by the February death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, a black man shot to death by two white men while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood, and the March death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot to death in her home by police in Louisville.
“We all know when we see something that’s horrific and wrong,” Arians said. “And the events, especially the last three events, they’re wrong. They’re murders. Hopefully, justice will be served quickly.”
Arians, 67, said he supports the protests urging systematic change and police reform but it’s important people remain as passionate about their causes after the demonstrations stop.
“I think right now, I love the fact that people are upset and they’re raising their voices, but don’t stop,” he said. “It’s one thing to march and protest. It’s another thing to take action. And when the protesting is over, I’d urge everybody to take action. Do something positive to help the situation. Just don’t go back to being silent because then it’s going to happen again.”