By Lenn Robbins
If you’re an athlete, of any color, currently being recruited by Oklahoma State University, in any sport, don’t rush to sign that letter of intent.
The football coach – Mike Gundy – is, at best, tone deaf.
The university president – Burns Hargis – is, at best toneless.
Gundy was photographed on a recent fishing excursion wearing a T-shirt with the letters OAN on the front. OAN stands for One America News, a right-wing television network .
Given that, we know where OAN stands on the gamut of socially progressive issues, such as Black Lives Matter.
Gundy last made a stink in 2007 when he berated a female columnist, by challenging her to criticize him and not one of his players, who is black. It sounded good at the time but that athlete was humiliated by Gundy’s actions.
“I’m a man!” Gundy bellowed at columnist Jenni Carlson. “I’m 40!”
Hard to imagine Gundy going after a male columnist with the same bravado, but that would be questioning Gundy’s manhood. Hell, I’m 60. I can take it.
Anyway, in the midst of what is hopefully the greatest reckoning of institutional racism that exists in this country, Gundy, who has limitless Oklahoma State gear, donned an OAN shirt on his June 10th fishing trip.
Let’s give Gundy the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe he got the T-shirt in the mail, like hundreds of packages he must receive, and tossed it in his drawer without ever looking at it.
Maybe the morning of said fishing trip, he arose early and in his pre-morning coffee sleepiness, grabbed the first T-shirt he got his hands on.
Maybe, even if he read the OAN, Gundy had never heard of One American News and thought the OAN stood for, oh, a bank – Oklahoma America National.
That’s a lot of benefit.
His star playing isn’t buying it.
Running back Chuba Hubbard, who led the nation in rushing last season and could become the university’s second Heisman Trophy winner, blasted his tone-deaf coach on Twitter.
“I will not stand for this,” Hubbard Tweeted on Monday. “This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it’s unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.”
What could that change look like? It’s doubtful Gundy is going anywhere.
He’s as close to a Teflon college football coach as there is in the nation. He played quarterback for the Cowboys. He’s paid $5 million a year, making him the second highest paid public employee in Oklahoma behind Sooners’ coach Lincoln Riley. And Gundy has an impressive record of 129-64.
The hometown boy from Midwest City, Okla., made good, probably won’t get fired and maybe, just maybe, he shouldn’t. Maybe this will be an awakening for Gundy. Maybe he’ll become the next White Listener.
President Hargis certainly didn’t sound like a man ready to part with his beloved football coach.
“I hear and respect the concerns expressed by our Black student-athletes,” Hargis said in a statement Monday in response to Hubbard’s tweet. “This is a time for unity of purpose to confront racial inequities and injustice. We will not tolerate insensitive behavior by anyone at Oklahoma State.”
Which means what? At worst, Gundy is guilty of insensitivity. Everyone should be cognizant of what they are wearing, of the car bumper sticker, of their social media sites. Not because they don’t want to get exposed, rather because they’ve realized that words matter.
Of course, actions matter more.
Gundy posted a video saying he had met with several players and vowed, “we’ve got good days ahead.”
Hubbard said he had gone about it wrong by taking to Twitter. He then Tweeted:
“Change is coming, I promise you that.”
Sounds promising. But if you’re thinking about representing Oklahoma State University, a Top 100 public university, this a great time to be patient before signing. You’re worth seeing if that change occurs.