‘Not just a hashtag’: Mike Boynton talks about the Black Lives Matter movement

Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News Press Oklahoma State men’s basketball coach Mike Boynton, left, talks with Stillwater Police Chief Jeff Watts, right, during the We Can’t Breathe Peaceful Protest in front of the Stillwater Police Department.

The Mike Gundy T-shirt controversy earlier this month not only ignited Oklahoma State players and fans, it engulfed the nation into debate over a coach who appeared to be under heavy scrutiny.

In a Zoom call with reporters Monday, Oklahoma State men’s basketball coach Mike Boynton was asked about his thoughts on the whole situation with the One America News Network shirt.

“I really didn’t know what was going on,” Boynton said. “I never heard of the network other than in kind of passing conversation, never knew anything about it. But I haven’t really talked much about it since then, either. There’s kind of been a lot of things going on with our own program. So I’ve really been focused on that.

“But I’m aware of what’s going on. I support the players 99 times out a 100. I think that’s a big part of the reason why we’re having this conversation today.”

It’s the same sentiment Boynton echoed three weeks ago when he spoke extensively about the tragic events that have ravaged our country that brought the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront of the discussion.

While it’s been a few weeks, the issues still persists, in America. And so, Boynton talked about the importance of his players using their platform to spread strong messages.

“I think it’s vital that people are informed of the things that their life experiences are going to bring them,” Boynton said. “I totally support all these guys. I do encourage them to make sure they understand there’s not going to be overwhelming support every time they open their mouth and say something. And that they have to be willing to maybe take some criticism.”

Even in a cause that’s pushing for basic human rights, there will be backlash. Whether that’s from people on the street, social media or any other form, it exists.

Even so, Boynton said he will support his players because college is a time to learn about themselves while figuring out how to impact society moving forward.

Which brings up another important point. For that change to happen, people need to not separate the kids on a basketball court with who they are off the court, which Boynton said is really significant.

He also said this whole movement is just so much bigger than athletes and that the country needs to listen to each other and have more compassion for each other.

“If we would just allow it to not feel personal, then we really have a chance to help each other and get to a common place,” Boynton said. “Our challenge, quite honestly, is most of the time people in power are resistant to change. You’ve got to relinquish some of that to get something else on the back end.

“What I see is, at least right now, partly because of those shutdowns, there’s a lot more energy behind this because nobody is doing anything else. I hope these conversations continue to happen as people get back to their normal lives so that we can make significant change long term.”

The death of George Floyd wasn’t the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, but it certainly sparked the biggest push this country has seen in a long time.

Much of that has to do with the current pandemic that’s going on. But, as Boynton said, it needs to go beyond that.

Many of his players have been outspoken on social media and have been active in the movement, which is a big step in the right direction. But it takes an effort from everyone.

“We have to come together and admit that, ‘Here’s a problem we can fix. How do we fix it? Let’s talk more, let’s understand each other better and let’s expose things we don’t agree with together,’” Boynton said. “Then we can get to a point where people all feel comfortable with how they’re being treated.

“Until we get to a point where people stop resisting it because they want to attack it, we’ll continue to have these discussions. We’ll have progress, but it will make it much slower than we could otherwise.”

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