In Tuesday’s video, Gundy said that during “a great meeting” with his team that day: “Our players expressed their feelings as individuals and as team members. They helped me see through their eyes how the T-shirt affected their hearts. Once I learned how that network felt about Black Lives Matter, I was disgusted and knew it was completely unacceptable to me.”
The 52-year-old coach said he wanted to apologize to “all members of our team, former players and their families, for the pain and discomfort that has been caused over the last two days.”
“Black lives matter to me. Our players matter to me,” he continued. “These meetings with our team have been eye-opening and will result in positive changes for Oklahoma State football. I sincerely hope the Oklahoma State family, near and far, will accept my humble apology as we move forward.”
In response to Gundy’s post Tuesday sharing the apology, Hubbard tweeted, “A step in the right direction.”
Earlier in the day, Hubbard posted a lengthy message that began with the 21-year-old offering regrets for having initially criticized his coach on Twitter instead of going to him “as a man face to face.”
“But I had to hold him accountable either way,” Hubbard said of Gundy in his post. “I am glad things happened the way they did because things are being changed as we speak!”
OAN, which Gundy has publicly praised in the past, is a far-right cable network that fervently supports President Trump and regularly promotes conspiracy theories. A host on the network has called the Black Lives Matter movement “a farce,” while an anchor for a nightly show on OAN has described BLM as a “criminal front group.”
When the photo of Gundy in an OAN shirt went viral, Hubbard tweeted Monday: “I will not stand for this. This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it’s unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.”
The running back, a native of Canada who led the nation with 2,094 rushing yards as a sophomore last season and finished eighth in voting for the Heisman Trophy, quickly got support from teammates.
“I stand with you my brotha,” junior wide receiver Braydon Johnson tweeted. “I refuse to keep feeling the uncomfort. This is bigger than football!”
“As an O-line we stand and support Chuba,” wrote offensive lineman Teven Jenkins.
“I stand with him!” senior linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga tweeted.
Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis eventually weighed in on Monday, tweeting, “I hear and respect the concerns expressed by our Black student-athletes. This is a time for unity of purpose to confront racial inequities and injustice. We will not tolerate insensitive behavior by anyone at Oklahoma State.”
Athletic Director Mike Holder said in a statement: “This afternoon has been very disturbing. The tweets from the current and former players are of grave concern.”
Later that evening, Ogbongbemiga tweeted: “By voicing our opinion we are happy to have came to a conclusion and opened a gateway to create some serious CHANGE around Oklahoma State. My teammates and I have all agreed we will go ahead and resume all workouts and activities. We’re all in this together.”
After George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody last month, protests against racial injustice swept across the country. College athletes — typically less inclined than their professional counterparts to speak out about issues in society or within their programs — have joined the conversation and have leveraged their power despite their amateur status and the lack of a union to offer protection.
Dozens of former Iowa football players spoke out about problems in the program that made black players feel uncomfortable and oppressed. Many allegations centered on longtime strength coach Chris Doyle. Iowa and Doyle reached a separation agreement Monday.
Texas football players asked the school to rename four campus buildings and remove “The Eyes of Texas” as the school song in an effort to make the campus more inclusive for the black community. The players’ statement listing these requests, tweeted Friday, said the team will not participate in recruiting or donor-related events until the university commits to the changes.
As Oklahoma State players began making their feelings known Monday, a few veterans of the program also chimed in, some with accusations of racially charged verbal abuse.
“OSU Athletics and University need major change,” tweeted Justice Hill, a former Oklahoma State running back who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens. “100% support brotha.”
Patrick Macon, who transferred from Oklahoma State to South Florida after the 2018 season, wrote on Twitter, tagging Oklahoma State defensive back Kanion Williams: “I was Threaten I Was Gonna Get Sent Back To The Hood Numerous Time... How Many Times Did He Say He Was Gonna Send You Back To South Dallas.?”
Former Oklahoma State wide receiver LC Greenwood, who entered the transfer portal in January, wrote in a since-deleted tweet: “I was called a hood rat and thug on multiple occasions being threatened to be sent back home all because of wearing a Durag and sleeveless shirts.”
In an April teleconference with reporters in which Gundy praised OAN, he referred to the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” just as Trump did at times this spring. Gundy criticized the “mainstream media” for being too negative with its coronavirus coverage.
“I was flipping through stations. I found one — I don’t even know if anybody knows about this — it’s called OAN,” Gundy said on the teleconference. “It’s One America News. And it was so refreshing. They just report the news. There’s no commentary. There’s no opinions on this. There’s no left. There’s no right. They just reported the news. And I’ve been watching them the last week because they’re giving us the news and giving us more information, in my opinion, some of the positives are coming out. So that was refreshing.”
April also saw Gundy apologize for comments he made in which he suggested that his team needed to convene soon and prepare to play this fall, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, for the good of Oklahoma’s economy.
“They are 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 years old, and they are healthy and they have the ability to fight this virus off,” he said of his players. “If that is true, then we sequester them and continue, because we need to run money through the state of Oklahoma.”
“So when you’re talking about continuing the economy in this state, if you have to play — plus, you need to play anyway. Everybody needs to see football,” Gundy added at the time. “Even if you just watch it on TV, it’s going to make people feel better. … The so-called medical people saying the herd of healthy people that have the antibodies maybe built up and can fight this? We all need to go back to work.”
In a subsequent statement of apology, the coach said in April, “My first priority is and will always be the student-athletes and doing what is best for the program and the university.”
The photo of Gundy wearing an OAN shirt was posted Wednesday on a Facebook page called Capt Steve Barnes Lake Texoma Striper Fishing Guide. Then an image of the post circulated widely on Twitter.
Several hours after his tweet Monday calling the OAN shirt “unacceptable,” Hubbard posted a video with Gundy. The coach said then he had a “great meeting” with players about the shirt and he “realized it’s a very sensitive issue with what’s going on in today’s society.”
Gundy was “made aware of some things that players feel like can make our organization, our culture even better than it is here at Oklahoma State,” he said, adding, “We’ve got good days ahead.”
After he posted the video, Hubbard tweeted: “No don’t get it twisted. Foots still on the gas. Results are coming. It’s not over.”
Following Gundy’s statement of apology Tuesday, Ogbongbemiga said via Twitter, “This took a lot of courage. Respect.”