Big 12 football: 10 storylines ahead of media days

Oklahoma football head coach Lincoln Riley speaks during NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Frisco, Texas on July 16, 2018. OU takes the stage at this year's Big 12 media days on Monday in Arlington. (AP Photo/Cooper Neill)

Lincoln Riley was asked to explain how he came to use the official Black Lives Matter hashtag on Twitter, part of his second public response to George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests.

Riley tweeted the hashtag on Tuesday, following a Sunday statement where he backed his players and committed to helping mend racial divide. 

“Because it’s a personal belief of mine,” he said. “You’ve seen it said a lot of places: All lives do matter, but the incidents here, of all of the different things that have gone on between law enforcement and specifically black males, has highlighted that … People have said it very well and maybe better than I can say it — all lives can’t matter until the black lives do too, and on an equal playing field. It's something I totally agree with." 

When Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013, it was a response to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, meant to stop white supremacists and violence against black communities.

But some began labeling the group as far-left extremism, particularly in conservative parts of the country — like Oklahoma. That belief was more pertinent five years ago, but still exists today: Joseph C. Gale, a public official in Pennsylvania, released a statement Monday calling the organization a “radical left-wing hate group.”

Riley said he was raised in a home where race and religion shouldn’t determine a person’s opportunity or “ability to feel safe,” which helped drive his use of the Black Lives Matter hashtag.

“That was my inner belief,” Riley said. “[It’s] not something that's done because I coach a football team that has a lot of young, black males on it, that has staff that has black males on it. That has nothing to do with it.”

• Voluntary?: With teams having lost spring practice, and some beginning voluntary workouts at different times, Riley believes there will be temptation for some schools to push the rules of offseason conditioning.

Athletes aren’t allowed to report information from voluntary workouts back to the coaching staff. Strength coaches can’t either.

“It’s well-known … It’s a rule that applied very differently at different places in different parts of the country. Something we live with,” Riley said. “I’m sure the temptation is going to be high, just like the temptation to get players back on campus right away was high.”

• This, that: Riley agrees with the NCAA extending its dead period on recruiting. He doesn’t foresee recruits getting on campus for some time due to coronavirus concerns. … Riley also expressed concern for older members of the staff who are more susceptible to the virus: “I think everybody in the world knows you quarantine that player (who gets it), but what do you do with the other people they've inevitably been around?” … Riley’s three-year anniversary as head coach is Sunday. He acknowledged differences between he and Bob Stoops, but said if someone described his tenure as Bob Stoops 2.0, “I would take that as an ultimate compliment.”

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