When you’re a college football recruit, the one place you want to make a statement is on the field, and on the field with your performance. Your speed, hands, accuracy or intelligence. Unsigned college football recruit Tyreke Smith made a bold statement yesterday by showing up at the home of the Buckeyes, proudly displaying his new t-shirt.
state was great!!!!
“I hope I don’t get killed for being Black today” blew away any athletic performance seen on the field yesterday at Ohio State where Smith was on a visit as a four star recruit. Donning a shirt created by his brother Malik, Tyreke made it clear what was in his heart and mind.
I decided to wear the shirt because I wanted to bring attention to the epidemic of blacks being killed at an alarming rate, Smith said. What we would like to do is have people talk about these issues to reduce the murder rate of African-Americans.
“I felt I should wear it because I’m big on the African American culture and know the struggles that our race goes through. Whether people think that being black isn’t a task or not. Being the individual I am and the spotlight I have, I felt that people would get the message if I wore the shirt. Because if I’m being real, people are looking at me even when I don’t know and I knew they would see the shirt.”
This is a bold, yet not shocking statement, from a 17 year old young man. With everything that has been happening lately, especially the verdict in the Philando Castile case, this shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore when it comes to young Black men. It’s a reality they face everyday, regardless of whether they’re on the street, in a car or a talented football player with 40 offer letters waiting back at home in Cleveland.
As expected, some feedback has been harsh, of course stating that sports and social injustice should be as separate as church and state. But realists, and people of color in America, know that this is absolutely ridiculous.
[They] are speaking negatively because they don’t understand what’s going on and the message behind it, Tyreke said in that interview with Elevenwarriors.com, feeling comfortable in wearing it and understanding the backlash he would be receiving. But to those who don’t have to worry about the same issues because of the color of their skin, it’s easy to criticize because they don’t walk around with the same fear or feeling of wearing a non-visible target on their backs.
To see or hear about so many senseless killings, it tends to have a negative impact on you, Tyreke said. You start to wonder if we should move away… but most, ‘why?’
Tyreke knew the shirt would have an impact, and knew just the right time to display it- at a large gathering of perspective players and media.
Said his brother Malik:
He asked me if he should wear it, [and] I said, ‘Absolutely, Tyreke.’ I told him to be ready for people to want to voice their own opinion about the shirt good or bad. I also told him to be ready to have an answer and be able to fully explain the shirt in great detail. He did just that.
Like Colin Kaepernick, young Tyreke was not afraid to take a stand or face the backlash of hate that will be following. And starting today, Tyreke will be one to watch, but not just for football.