Alabama coach Nick Saban said he supports the march on campus that players have planned for Monday afternoon.
“The players have made these choices and decisions about what they want to do, how they want to be heard, and we want to support them because we do support what they want to do,” Saban told reporters Saturday.
On June 29, Saban appeared in a video along with several players which addressed racial injustice and said, in part, “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.”
He said Saturday that he’s structured the offseason to address those concerns, bringing in prominent Black speakers like Condoleezza Rice, Tony Dungy and Charles Barkley to address the team.
“They all did a phenomenal job of trying to explain to players, ‘How can we have a plan for change and how can we make things better in the future?'” Saban said. “And I think that’s what our players have been focused on, and that will be what they want to get out there on Monday. And we’re very much in support of that.”
On Friday, several Alabama football players promoted the march from the Mal Moore Athletics Facility to Foster Auditorium, saying coaches would also be in attendance. The team is not scheduled to practice that day.
“We want our voices to be heard as we strive to enact social change and rid our world of social injustices,” running back Najee Harris tweeted. “We want all Alabama athletes to join us. This isn’t a fan day … this isn’t a football game … this is about lasting CHANGE!”
Players across the country have again spoken up about racial injustice following the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kentucky and Mississippi State boycotted practice on Wednesday. And on Thursday, Ole Miss and LSU held their own marches.
“We are sick and tired of the same thing over and over and over again with no one being held accountable for their actions,” Owens tweeted Wednesday night.
“We shouldn’t have to live in fear of red and blue lights pulling up behind us in our cars or an officer in uniform approaching us and just praying we make it out of the interaction alive or in the same condition that we entered in with. All we want is equality.”
Saban addressed reporters following the team’s first scrimmage on Saturday afternoon, saying how excited he was to be back in Bryant-Denny Stadium again. He reiterated that he wants the season to happen for the players’ sake, but only if they can do so safely.
The university has been dealing with a surge of coronavirus cases this week. As of Saturday, more than 1,200 students and 166 employees and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Every day that we’re able to go out there with a good number of guys that are healthy and doing well and have positive energy and positive attitudes and are working hard to get better, it’s exciting for me,” Saban said. “To go back into the stadium today was exciting, because every step you take makes it feels like, ‘Yeah, we are going to play a game.'”
Saban said there’s been a transition psychologically since it’s been so long since normal practice and all the uncertainty of the offseason dealing with COVID-19. Alabama, along with a number of other programs, was unable to participate in spring practice due to the pandemic.
“You kind of get in the mode that we’re practicing to practice, which is a little bit different than practicing to play games and practicing to play against great competition,” Saban said. “We’ve been trying to get our players to transition into that.”
The SEC plans to play a 10-game, conference-only schedule this season.
Alabama is scheduled to open the season at home against Missouri on Sept. 26.