On Aug. 27, perhaps the most famous football player ever to wear the cherry and silver uniform of the University of New Mexico posted an incendiary screed on Instagram denigrating NBA players’ brief strike of playoff games in protest of police brutality and structural racism.
The players’ boycott was in response to the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23. Blake is paralyzed from the waist down, according to his lawyer, and remains hospitalized as of the publication of this article.
UNM’s Black Student Union (BSU) followed with a strongly worded statement, released on social media on Sept. 2, rebuking what they said was Urlacher’s “horrific” interpretation of the events leading up to the near-fatal police shooting of Blake.
“We will not support anyone, notable alumni or not, who believes it is acceptable for an unarmed Black man to be shot seven times in his back in front of his children,” the BSU’s statement read. “It is horrific that Brian Urlacher could share memes/propaganda condoning the attempted murder of Jacob Blake.”
Urlacher’s post on Instagram derided the unprecedented strike of NBA players as a political stunt and called into question the motivations behind the players’ public protestations against police brutality.
“Brett Favre played the (Monday Night Football) game the day his dad died, threw 4 TDs in the first half and was a legend for playing in the face of adversity,” Urlacher said. “NBA players boycott the playoffs because a dude reaching for a knife, wanted on a felony sexual assault warrant, was shot by police.’’
The BSU dismissed Urlacher’s post outright and stood in solidarity with the UNM football team in decrying his sentiments and blasting what they deemed as a tone-deaf response during a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We as the Black Student Union of the University of New Mexico are in full support with the statement made by the UNM football student-athletes,” the BSU said.
The UNM football team released a statement on Aug. 28 condemning Urlacher’s remarks. The players highlighted the racial disparities that exist in U.S., characterized the Lobo alum’s post as “hurtful” and condemned the Kenosha shooting as “target practice.”
“These issues are more significant than any NBA or NFL game/player,” the statement from the UNM football team read. “Regardless of someone’s criminal background or prior mistakes in life, we all deserve justice and equality; Lady Justice wears a blindfold, because justice is not intended to be subjective in America. Let us remember that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Urlacher’s statements regarding the consistent state sanctioned violence that targets Black men across the United States prompted acidic levels of outrage from BSU.
“Though he is of many throughout the nation who refuse to acknowledge the prejudice and injustices woven within our police system, we expect more from a fellow Lobo,” the BSU said. “We expect more from a public figure whose banner hangs from our stadium where hundreds of young men who look like Jacob Blake have played and will play.”
The BSU also made clear that their statement was not meant to be read as anti-UNM Athletics or critical of student-athletes.
“To our UNM student-athletes, please know that the Black Student Union is a safe space for you, and we value your voices and your lives,” the BSU said.
The NBA was not the only major sport in the United States to put its games on hold as an act of protest. Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer also joined in the player strike.
In the days following Urlacher’s post, both UNM and the NFL’s Chicago Bears — his former employer — both distanced themselves from Urlacher and his comments.
Andrew Gunn contributed reporting to this article.
Gino Gutierrez is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GGutierrez_48