The role of an athlete — especially in today’s society — is much maligned. Sports are often used as a distraction from everyday life, fans getting lost in hours of watching a player who can run faster and jump higher than themselves.
Jermaine Wynn, Jr. isn’t just someone who runs fast. He’s a football player with a voice, and it’s his moral obligation to have a voice in his community on issues that are important to him.
Living in a predominantly white town, the Slippery Rock football team is one of the most diverse groups on campus and in the community. Guys come from all different walks of life, forming a team of almost 100 men. And the team is unbreakable, Wynn said, with guys coming together in the locker room and sharing common views.
“Being in a college football locker room over the past four and a half years, I’ve seen a testament to that,” Wynn said. “It’s a bunch of guys coming from different places, raised on different beliefs, we’re all able to come together in the locker room and be one.”
When the George Floyd shooting occurred in late May, Rock football posted a video on Twitter with coaches and players speaking on how important it is to fight racism, police brutality and racial injustice in America. For Wynn, it meant the world to have the team come together and support one another as a family.
— Slippery Rock U Football (@SRURockFB) June 9, 2020
“It means a lot, especially with everything else going on with racial problems and social injustice, it means a lot to know that I have brothers who don’t share the same skin color as me, but they still have strong feelings about or support the stuff that I believe in,” Wynn said.
Lutz said the team has and will continue to have those tough discussions as a team.
“In our program, it doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is — black, purple, white, gold — it doesn’t matter,” Lutz said. “We’re all as one.”
In a football locker room, where teammates have spent years pouring their blood, sweat and tears into the program, you form bonds with those guys you go to war with every day. Guys you might never have expected had it not been for football.
“I think it’s important for football players — or anyone — to be able to be in that environment where people are different around you,” Wynn said. “So you’re able to develop your own thoughts and judgments on people, not just based on their skin color or what they believe in.”
Lutz takes his job as the head coach of such a group of young men seriously. He believes it his job to be a leader and a positive role model, and in things that aren’t political, religious or any of that sort, he’ll use his platform to share what he believes is right. He will not just sit back idly.
LeBron James is someone that Lutz looks up to, one of his favorite basketball players of all time because while he’s a great basketball player, he also uses his platform to stand up for what he believes in and take action.
Wynn is a huge fan of James, too, and like his idol, he doesn’t believe that athletes should just play their sport and have a voice.
“My goal as a person, other than football, is that I want to make sure that as I go through my life, I want to teach the opposite of ignorance,” Wynn said. “I want people to not judge based on skin color or anything.”
Sports are a huge part of American culture, but once off the field, the court, the park, their lives matter more than just how far they can throw a football or how many 3-pointers they can make per game.
“As an athlete, for most athletes, we want to be recognized as something more than just a sports player,” Wynn said. “We want to be more than that. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable with me voicing my opinion on social issues or racial issues, then why do you root for me on the field?”
Wynn will use whatever platform he has, whether it’s as a professional athlete or his career after football, to spread the message of equality and justice for all. No matter who you are. And his family is with him.
“Just like in between the lines, our words mean nothing without actions,” Junior wide receiver Victor Talley said in the Twitter video. “So we are committed to doing our part to stomp out racism and discrimination.”
Rock football is a family and this family will not stand idly by on issues it believes in.