Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon said “we must stand together and unite now more than ever" in a statement Monday responding to nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd and police brutality.
Floyd, a black man, died last week after being pinned by the neck to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for several minutes, sparking protests in major cities across the country, including in Baltimore and Washington. His death led to charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter against since-fired officer Derek Chauvin, who was shown placing his knee on Floyd’s neck in a video widely shared on social media.
“As I have discussed the horrific death of George Floyd the last few days privately with both my team and family, I have come to understand that as a leader of black young men it is imperative to extend the reach of my voice,” Turgeon wrote in a post on Twitter. “In the words of human rights activist Desmond Tutu, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.'
“Discussing this matter with my team and my family is not enough. It can’t be enough. The recent senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others has sickened me to my core."
Turgeon’s statement comes after many coaches, athletes and teams in both college and professional sports have shared views condemning police brutality and racism in response to Floyd’s death and other black people killed by police in America.
Earlier Monday, the National Basketball Coaches Association announced that it has established a committee on racial injustice and reform to pursue solutions within NBA cities. Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, David Fizdale and Stan Van Gundy were some of the coaches selected to be part of the committee.
“The events of the past few weeks – police brutality, racial profiling and the weaponization of racism are shameful, inhumane and intolerable,” the NBCA said in a statement. “As a diverse group of leaders, we have a responsibility to stand up and speak out for those who don’t have a voice – and to stand up and speak out for those who don’t feel it is safe to do so.”
Turgeon said that his team will read “Why We Can’t Wait,” Martin Luther King Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning exploration of the events and forces behind the civil rights movement, and “discuss each chapter to better understand systematic racism and what we can do to fix it.”
“We are all in this together and we must work to rid our country of injustices and racism," said Turgeon, who led the Terps to the Big Ten regular-season title this past season before the NCAA canceled postseason tournaments because of the coronavirus pandemic. “It will take real work. It starts with never forgetting these moments. It also means committing ourselves to further education in racism and social injustice.”
Turgeon, a 1987 graduate of Kansas with a degree in personnel administration, has hosted the Coaches vs. Cancer Season Tip-Off Breakfast in conjunction with the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches for five years, and has assisted the Alzheimer’s Association and Special Olympics of Maryland. After signing a four-year extension in 2016, he is the highest-paid employee in the state, earning $3,047,000 in 2019, according to public salary records.
“This has been an unbelievably challenging time in our country in so many ways,” he said. “We should support all communities that have been impacted by these tragedies, including those impacted by social injustices and also the men and women of law enforcement who do serve their communities with honor and respect. We must stand together and unite now more than ever.”