LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas’ two most recognizable names have weighed in on the racial strife that has erupted across the U.S. over the last week.
Jayhawk men’s basketball coach Bill Self and football coach Les Miles on Saturday night issued public statements condemning racism. Two of the state’s most high-profile figures, the former national championship-winning coaches became the latest to comment following Monday’s death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who died after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin continued to kneel on his neck after he became unresponsive.
Self labeled Floyd's death "avoidable" and said the incident saddens his family greatly.
"It is incomprehensible that this level of racism still occurs in this day and age, and it’s unacceptable," Self said. "Anyone possessing basic human kindness must support each other and stand up for those that have been oppressed for far too long. No one should have to worry that they will be treated differently, or worse yet fear for their lives on a daily basis, simply because (of) the color of their skin or where they are from.
"The conversations we have had as a team recently about the racial acts of violence is one that no amount of words can ever do justice. I am frustrated that we as a country have not done our part to create equal rights for all individuals. We must be better."
Self has been coach of the Jayhawks since the 2003-04 season, capturing the national championship at the conclusion of the 2007-08 campaign.
"In most of our lives, things are only put into perspective because of an event that directly affects us or someone close to us," Self said. "However, the recent tragedies over the past week are something that should personally affect each individual across this country that requires our full commitment to create change."
Miles used as an example his responsibility as a football coach to bring together young men from diverse backgrounds in the name of achieving a common goal.
"I have struggled to express the feelings and emotions with the events that have occurred over the past several days. My deepest condolences to the Floyd family," Miles said. "I am a father, and also a coach to many players both past and present who have enriched my life, and I am thankful for that.
"I’ve had players from around the country with a variety of backgrounds and have truly enjoyed working with and serving those quality young men. I encourage these men to go be leaders and make a positive impact in the world."
Miles, who won a national championship with LSU, will enter his second season at KU this fall.
"My heart hurts as I reflect on the racism that still exists in this country and the civil unrest we currently find ourselves in," Miles continued. "Regardless of race and color we cannot keep turning a blind eye to those that need our support through words and actions now more than ever. God Bless."
The comments from Self and Miles were part of a release from the KU athletic department titled "Unified Against Racism," which featured a statement signed by the pair as well as athletic director Jeff Long and 11 other Jayhawk head coaches.
"Our core mission of Kansas Athletics is to protect the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes," the statement read. "We do not tolerate any acts of racism or violence and promote an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusivity. We celebrate individuals from all walks of life and do not discriminate based on background, color of skin, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or anything else.
"Recent acts of racial divide and violence are unacceptable. We respect and support each and every one of our 450-plus student-athletes and value their individuality. We join together as an athletic department, united in hopes to end the unconscionable acts of racism."