Alabama marches against racial injustice
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Watch: Alabama football players, coaches march against racial injustice

Led by head coach Nick Saban and running back Najee Harris, the Alabama football team took a stand against racial injustice Monday, participating in an organized march across campus.

“Today I’m like a proud parent,” Saban said. “I’m proud of our team, I’m proud of our messengers over here and I’m very proud of the message.”

Monday’s march began at the Mal Moore Facility and concluded in front of the schoolhouse door at Foster Auditorium, the site where former Alabama Gov. George Wallace stood in front of the schoolhouse door to block integration at the university in 1963.

“We walked to this schoolhouse door intentionally because while much has changed in the last 57 years, too many things have not,” Harris said. “So in this moment, we as student-athletes need to play our part in bringing out positive change… We need change in our system of law enforcement. We need change in our community. We need change in our hearts.”

Alabama’s decision to march was spurred on by the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, who was left paralyzed from the waist down after he sustained four bullet wounds in the back from seven shots by a White officer. In June, Alabama released a video entitled “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter,” which was written by offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood and served as a response to the deaths of both Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

This summer, Saban has brought in a series of influential speakers including Condoleeza Rice, Tony Dungy, Stephen A. Smith, Joey Galloway and Charles Barkley to talk to the team about racial injustice. Monday, the head coach commended his players in how they have risen together.

“I’m very proud of the ’All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter’ video that we did early on that I think had a very positive impact,” Saban said. “That was something we did together as a team. This is something that the team decided to do together as a team, so I’m very proud and supportive of what they are trying to say, and in a peaceful and intelligent way. I’m very pleased to be here today.”

Harris was one of three Alabama players to speak at the rally as offensive lineman Chris Owens and outside linebacker Jarez Parks also delivered messages. Alabama President Stuart Bell and athletic director Greg Byrne were also among the speakers.

Both Parks and Owens discussed the daily difficulties they face as Black men in today's society.

“Every time I walk out of the doors of my house and I get the chance to come back home, I have to thank God tremendously, because I knew walking out could be my possible last time of doing so,” Parks said before getting emotional at the podium. “My life has been in a constant fear of being and knowing that no matter how educated, how intelligent, how skilled I am, that my skin can be a perception-changer.

“We don’t want revenge, we just want fairness and equality, which is something we can all achieve by togetherness.”

Owens brought up the "cultural norms" Black people have to learn to keep safe in society, including "keep your hands on the steering wheel; always keep a receipt in case you purchased anything."

"Why can’t we be equal?" he questioned. "All we want is to end systemic inequalities and have equal opportunity.”

In calling for change, Harris said it was the team's responsibility to play their part in building a better community. The senior is currently working with local community service programs including Alberta Head Start as well as Big Brothers and Big Sisters of West Alabama.

“This is not a problem that will simply come and go in a new cycle,” Harris said. “It’s not a problem that will eventually dissipate without action. Being here today is a huge step, but I ask you, what’s next?

“We certainly can’t let this momentum die. This has to be an ongoing movement until change happens. We must do more as a team and individuals to keep this movement going.”

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Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris. Photo | Alabama Athletics
Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris. Photo | Alabama Athletics