Florida State star Marvin Wilson was a tipping point in college athletes’ activism

The Seminoles lineman sparked conversations across college sports and a push for financial literacy in Tallahassee.
Florida State's Marvin Wilson speaks during the Atlantic Coast Conference football media day in Charlotte, N.C., last July.
Florida State's Marvin Wilson speaks during the Atlantic Coast Conference football media day in Charlotte, N.C., last July. [ CHUCK BURTON | Associated Press (2019) ]
Published June 17, 2020|Updated June 17, 2020

Florida State star Marvin Wilson didn’t start to realize how powerful his voice was until his late-night tweet shook one of the most prestigious programs in college football history.

Two weeks later, we’re all starting to see just how far his words have echoed. When he threatened a boycott because of something first-year FSU coach Mike Norvell said, Wilson didn’t just start a movement. He started two.

And one has already spread far outside Tallahassee.

Related: FSU star Marvin Wilson: Seminoles moving forward after boycott threat

A day after his boycott rose and fell at FSU, former Iowa players began alleging inappropriate racial behavior by Chris Doyle, the nation’s highest paid strength coach; Doyle and the Hawkeyes parted ways Monday.

Last week at Texas, multiple players vowed not to host recruits or attend donor functions until several steps are taken, including the replacement of The Eyes of Texas as the school song. And on Monday, star running back Chuba Hubbard threatened to boycott Oklahoma State activities after coach Mike Gundy was photographed wearing a T-shirt of One America News Network, which recently had a news commentator describe the Black Lives Matter movement as a “farce;” Hubbard apologized but said he’ll hold Gundy and the Cowboys accountable for changing the program. Gundy also apologized, saying on Tuesday: “Once I learned how that network felt about Black Lives Matter, I was disgusted and knew it was completely unacceptable to me. ... Black lives matter to me. Our players matter to me.''

Although Wilson isn’t the first prominent athlete to speak out about social issues, his tweet was a tipping point in college sports.

“It’s been a beautiful thing to see — everyone realizing how much power they have and starting sticking up for what’s right…” Wilson said.

“I take tremendous pride in it, not necessarily being the first one to speak out but being an athlete speaking out on social injustice. Just seeing guys making changes in their universities, changing things moving forward. I feel like it’s huge.”

Huge, yes. But also hard.

Wilson said he spent almost an hour thinking about whether to send his tweet, which called out Norvell for falsely saying he corresponded with every player individually about the racial issues rekindled by George Floyd’s death in Minnesota. Wilson, a 2019 captain and all-ACC defensive lineman, talked with his teammates to make sure they were behind him (which they were).

“It was really a team effort,” Wilson said. “It just had the spotlight on me.”

Miami Hurricanes quarterback N'Kosi Perry (5) gets sacked by Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Marvin Wilson (21) during the first quarter.
Miami Hurricanes quarterback N'Kosi Perry (5) gets sacked by Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Marvin Wilson (21) during the first quarter. [ Tampa Bay Times ]
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The spotlight stayed on him as he announced the boycott was over and that the Seminoles were moving on with three tangible steps he had been thinking about since he hit send: Voter registration across the program, a greater push from FSU to help black children go to college and a university-wide emphasis on helping poor children in Tallahassee.

And even though Norvell has publicly apologized, the spotlight remains on Wilson through the other movement he’s leading — appropriately called Marvin’s Movement.

His focus is on financial literacy, which he realized he lacked when he bought a used Chevy in December. Soon after his tweet, he connected with GameTime Prep, a Tallahassee-based organization that started as a 7-on-7 football league but expanded to teach boys life lessons about things like money and healthcare. Ed Hill, GameTime Prep’s CEO was impressed with Wilson’s concrete thoughts.

“It’s easy to say, ‘I want change,’” Hill said. “But there’s nobody saying this is the road map to change.”

Related: Hours after Tampa store fire, ex-high school standouts come to rescue with cleanup

Marvin’s Movement has one.

Wilson is using his platform as a future NFL talent to get kids’ attention about budgets and bank accounts. He’ll speak at seminars, where Hill’s program will teach a curriculum from Florida’s Department of Financial Services. By reaching children in middle school or high school, they hope to give them a solid financial foundation that can stop systemic, generational problems in their community.

All from one late-night tweet.

“That’s the biggest thing that I really got away from it — knowing you can have the platform,” Wilson said. “You don’t know who you can impact from the moment you took that stand. That’s why I encourage more athletes to speak out and be more active not only on social media but their communities.

“You never know the impact you can have, how big things can go, if you have the right heart.”

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