Bruce Arians responded Friday to criticism directed at him by the head of the NFL players’ union regarding his comments a day earlier that “protesting doesn’t do crap.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith tweeted late Thursday afternoon that Arians’ comments about the value of protests were “woefully misinformed.”
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it’s clear he is woefully misinformed about the history of protest both within sports and in America,” Smith wrote.
Smith added an emoji that pointed to photos of John Lewis, the civil rights leader and congressman who died last month, and the words, “for starters.”
Lewis was the youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that had the greatest impact on the movement. He was best known for leading some 600 protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 in Selma, Ala.
Asked after Friday morning’s Bucs scrimmage about Smith’s tweet, Arians responded, “Yeah, I have a history, and it might be a little longer than his.”
The Bucs chose to practice Thursday after games in the NBA, Major League Baseball, WNBA and MLS (and later, NHL) were postponed and nine other NFL teams opted not to practice to protest racial injustice in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wis.
When asked about the responsibility athletes and teams have to change systematic racism, Arians said he urged players to use their platform as professional athletes to take action.
“I don’t know that protest is an action,” he said. “I think each guy has a personal thing. I would beg them to take action, find a cause and either support it financially or do something to change the situation, because protesting doesn’t do crap, in my opinion. I’ve been seeing it since 1968.”
Arians grew up in racially divided York, Pa., and as a teenager saw National Guard tanks roll through his hometown during civil unrest in the late 1960s. At Virginia Tech, he was the first white football player to room with a Black teammate. He has long championed diversity and has the only coaching staff in the NFL with three Black coordinators and two female coaches.
Both Arians, 67, and Smith, 56, have campaigned for more diversity on NFL coaching staffs and more opportunities for minorities to get head coaching jobs. And both were vocal this offseason when the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by law enforcement unearthed a new discussion about racial inequality in this country.
The Bucs met as a team before Thursday’s 8:30 a.m. practice and decided to take the field. Arians challenged players, saying actions speak louder than words — or the decision not to practice for one day.
“Not practicing, what does that really do?” Bucs running back LeSean McCoy said. “We want a real statement.
Added Arians, “If they want to do something, we’ll do it, as long as it’s something that’s going to have something to do with change and not just taking a day off.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.