2020-06-29 sp-emigcolumn Gundy

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy walks the field against Oklahoma during the bedlam football game in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday, November 30, 2019. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

A reader named Tim emailed the following over the weekend:

“I’m a big fan of Mike Boynton. His character is unquestionable, the kind of guy we need at OSU. But so is Mike Gundy. Have you heard anything from any player that says Mike Gundy is a racist? No, nothing. Yet you condemn him for wearing a T-shirt for a day of fishing.

“For a guy that says he cries every week and is so concerned about diversity and inclusion, you’re not very forgiving when a person apologizes for making a bad shirt choice.”

There is a lot I am still trying to process about Gundy, including whether he is the kind of guy OSU needs. Bill Haisten’s reporting suggests OSU is still trying to decide whether he is the kind of guy OSU needs.

I am not as conflicted about the One America News T-shirt Gundy wore to that lake a couple weeks ago. Meaning, the T-shirt isn’t the issue here.

The man in the T-shirt is.

When Chuba Hubbard posted his “I will not stand for this” tweet in response to the photo of Gundy in that shirt, just about the entire OSU team aligned with him. That tidal wave of support speaks to the kind of person Hubbard is, and the pull he has in his program.

It also, to me, speaks to the kind of person Gundy is, or isn’t, and the pull he lacks.

Recent Cowboys star Justice Hill supported Hubbard by tweeting: “OSU Athletics and University need major change.” That wasn’t just about a T-shirt.

Former Colorado Buffalo Alfred Williams reacted by resurfacing 31-year-old allegations that Gundy called him the N-word during the 1989 OSU-Colorado game. That wasn’t just about a T-shirt.

To Tim’s point about contrition, Gundy indeed apologized for wearing the T-shirt, telling ESPN: “I was a dumbass. I put the shirt on not knowing enough about the shirt. I understood exactly why the players got frustrated when they found that out.”

That covers the act of wearing the shirt, but what is required here is some soul-searching into the reaction that followed, both inside (OSU athletic director Mike Holder: “The tweets from current and former players are of grave concern”) and outside (Williams) the program.

That felt a lot more personal than outrage over a T-shirt.

That tells you Gundy has a lot more to change than his fishing wardrobe.

So now you know what made me think last week. That wasn’t all...

This made me think

There were six men and six women representing the University of Tulsa athletic department in TU’s thought-provoking “Conversations That Matter” video on race released last week.

That was no accident, according to the two project creators — Golden Hurricane running back Corey Taylor and former TU football player Avery Gragg.

“We both have younger sisters,” Taylor said, “so we wanted to let them see a version of themselves on the screen and make them feel they have a voice in this conversation as well.”

Bravo.

The contributions from all six women in the video were significant. Consider the responses of current TU basketball player Madi Washington and former player Kendrian Elliott to the question “What does support look like for you?”

“It looks like coaches and institutions making a strong stance against what they believe is (wrong),” Washington said, “not re-posting (social media) posts that they’ve seen from someone else. Not straddling the fence but taking your own words and putting them into action, using your power to make your own stance a clear one.”

“I think support just looks genuine,” Elliott said. “It looks like you actually care. You want to make a change instead of doing the same thing everybody else is doing, or feeling like you have to speak up.”

And this made me think

Oklahoma’s athletic department released protocols Friday for athletes returning to campus as COVID-19 continues to burn through the state. The details about sanitation, hygiene, education and player responsibility (masks, social distancing, small groups, etc.) were interesting.

And then there was this line at the bottom of the press release: “The athletics department will report the results of its initial testing and provide regular and periodic updates in the weeks to come.”

I hope OU follows through on that. I don’t know if knowledge is necessarily power during a pandemic. It’s hard to feel powerful when you are up against something like this.

I do know that knowledge, and transparency, is helpful right now. The more that is shared, the better we understand what, in fact, we are up against.

And this made me think

On the topic of shared knowledge...

I asked TU coach Philip Montgomery if the outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests in other football programs concerns him as TU starts welcoming players back to campus.

“We’ve tried to use a lot of these programs as examples,” he said of Houston, Kansas State and Boise State, who have halted workouts due to positive test results. “Look, I don’t know what they did and what they didn’t do, but I can tell you there were some changes there. This affected them and now they’re having to sit for 14 days or however long...

“I’ll pick up the phone and call anybody. Some of those places that have not been in the news and have been working out for a while. ‘What have y’all been doing that’s keeping you healthy and safe?’

“We’re going to keep bouncing ideas off each other and trying to implement things that seem to be working in other places in the country.”

Guerin Emig 918-629-6229

guerin.emig@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @GuerinEmig