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Michigan State’s Tom Izzo changes stance on kneeling: ‘I look back on it, how ignorant am I?’

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Another figure in American sports has announced an epiphany over Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem back in 2016.

Michigan State University men’s basketball coach, Tom Izzo, reversed his previous condemnation of the move, saying in an interview Tuesday that he is “still learning.”

(Image: Fox Sports screenshot)

Izzo admitted in an interview on 97.1 The Ticket on Tuesday that he did not agree with the controversial decision by the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback when he kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality. But the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have made him rethink his views.

“Listen, I learn lessons, too. And I’m still learning at this age,” Izzo said.

“I talked to all those people to try to get a good feel. And what I realized is, I wasn’t real happy with the Colin Kaepernick thing when it happened. I guess, like a lot of people, I looked at it as, ‘What are we doing?’ The flag, all this stuff. And yet, as I look back on it, how ignorant am I? Because that was a peaceful protest,” he added.

(Source: Green Room/Sound Cloud)

Izzo had objected at the time because he was reminded of past protests where the U.S. flag was burned.

“I went and looked up some pictures that I showed my players. There were a lot of white people and they weren’t kneeling at the flag, they were burning it. And that really hit home for me. I said, ‘I am into all the peaceful protests. I’m not into the burning, but I’m also trying to figure out how many times you have to try to get something done,’ he told the radio show.

“And yet, if there’s a silver (lining) in this someway, I’ve never seen so many white people, black people, Hispanic people marching together in the peaceful protests. To me, that is progress that I don’t hope will continue, it has to continue.”

Amid the controversy and fallout that followed Kaepernick’s move, Izzo had directed the Spartans to stand during the national anthem with their hands over their hearts.

But the 65-year-old Michigan State’s Hall of Fame coach admitted this week he was “sickened” by the death of Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck several minutes during an arrest.

“I feel like I spend a lot of time in the inner cities and around different people, and always felt like I had a good relationship. But when I saw what I saw with George Floyd, it sickened me. I said it and it did,” Izzo told the radio station.

“It was real and it was disappointing, but it was disgusting. None of us know all the things that happen, but a human life is a human life and we’re treating it like it’s nothing,” he added.

The new owner of the Detroit Lions, Sheila Ford Hamp, told reporters on Tuesday that she would support a decision by players to kneel during the national anthem. She also noted that, if the coaches and general manager “thought it would be a good idea,” she would even back a move to sign Kaepernick to the team.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell supported the idea of teams signing the 32-year-old who hasn’t played since 2016. He praised Kaepernick Monday for raising the issues of police brutality and, earlier this month, had apologized for not doing better in listening to the concerns before.

Meanwhile, Izzo seemed to be another in a line of those jumping on the social justice bandwagon.

“As Jud Heathcote, my old boss, used to say, ‘There’s bad everything.,'” he told radio hosts  Mike Stone and Jamie Samuelsen.

“We’ve learned that society’s got bad people as police officers, bad people as presidents, bad people as teachers, administrators. Hell, we’ve learned that there’s bad clergy. Whoever thought there’d be a day when we’re questioning priests?” he mused. “But this is human life.”

Frieda Powers

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