Ari­ans asks: ‘How far have we re­ally come’?

He can’t help but think back to late 1960s

Orlando Sentinel - - Weather - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

BUC­CA­NEERS

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.”

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