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More USF coaches speak out as chaos ensues near campus

Jose Fernandez and Ken Eriksen are among those who address the death of George Floyd and the protests that have resulted.
Police SWAT officers guard firefighters as they respond to the Champs Sports store on Fowler Avenue after protesters looted and set the building on fire.
Police SWAT officers guard firefighters as they respond to the Champs Sports store on Fowler Avenue after protesters looted and set the building on fire. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published May 31, 2020
Updated May 31, 2020

As tensions and looting escalated on the fringe of their campus late Saturday and early Sunday, more USF coaches took to social media in response to the national unrest over the death of George Floyd.

Among them was veteran Bulls women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez, who indicated he experienced similar protests as a Cuban-American growing up in Miami.

“It is so unfortunate that the action of individuals who serve and protect our communities can put members of our law enforcement around the country in such a bad light,” Fernandez tweeted.

“We must express our views in a safe and positive manner and not take away from the true issues at hand."

Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, died during his arrest by Minneapolis police. Video showed a white police officer kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd was in handcuffs.

Related: Live: Fire, looting and violence reported as Tampa Bay protests escalate

The officer, 44-year-old Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The three other officers present have been fired but not charged as of yet.

Floyd’s death set off protests — many of which resulted in violence and looting — nationwide. By Sunday’s wee hours, a number of businesses on Fowler Avenue, just west of the USF campus, had been looted, and the Champs Sports store near University Mall had been set afire.

Earlier Saturday evening, football coach Jeff Scott and men’s assistant basketball coach Tom Herrion also addressed the national outrage over Floyd’s death. Men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory added his own statement late Sunday morning, including a quote from George Washington Carver: Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater.

Herrion indicated he has coached and worked with a number of people of color in his 30 years of coaching, adding, “I have never walked a day in their shoes."

“I can’t claim to know how they feel," Herrion added, "but the recent events surrounding racism and ignorance anger, disgust and sadden me deeply.”

Softball coach Ken Eriksen, who has no social media account, indicated in a text message that the Floyd tragedy should spur society and its leaders to make positive changes.

“There is no question that leadership levels and acumen will be tested during these times,” said Eriksen, currently serving as coach of the U.S. Olympic softball team.

“Hopefully we do have ‘good’ people first and foremost in leadership roles. I can take the 'not-perfect strategists.’ I can’t take the malicious responses and ‘heads in the sand’ leaders. Good people/smart people have a chance to be better. People with blinders on will be, well, blind to the events happening around them.

“We actually are lucky to have passionate leadership in the (USF) athletic department and in the (USF) president’s office.”