Jaden McNeil, a student at Kansas State, tweeted Thursday, “Congratulations to George Floyd on being drug free for an entire month!” Twitter removed the tweet for violating the company’s rules, and McNeil later tweeted, “I condemned George Floyd’s life of violent crime and Twitter gave me a 12 hour suspension for ‘glorifying violence.’ ”
Defensive back Tee Denson tweeted in response, “I refuse to play for a program that tolerates ignorance such as this.” Joshua Youngblood, a wide receiver and standout kick returner, said, “I’m not coming back until he kicked out.” That tweet has been deleted, but he tagged the university in a different tweet that said, “Y’all need to do something.”
Other players, including wide receiver Malik Knowles and defensive back Walter Neil Jr., asked the school to take action. Another tweeted that, “We cannot play, practice or meet” until action was taken.
The school condemned McNeil’s tweet, saying that it is committed to listening and supporting “black athletes, black students and members of our black community.”
“Recent tweets from a K-State student downplaying the Black Lives Matter effort and the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd are disgusting and totally inappropriate and not reflective of who we are as a University or our Athletic Department,” Athletic Director Gene Taylor said in a statement. “They are not reflective of our administration and goals. We are committed to listening [to] and supporting our black athletes, black students and members of our black community and taking positive steps in the matters of social injustice and racism.”
In a tweet, the athletic department added, “K-State Athletics, along with President [Richard] Myers and University leadership, respect and support our student-athletes in standing up in the fight against racism. At @KState we are a family and we will work together to make our campus community an even better place to call home.”
Hours later, it tweeted a message of inclusiveness as June’s Pride Month observation comes to a close, writing, “We are all Wildcats.”
On Saturday, Wildcats defensive back Jonathan Alexander tweeted a statement saying the football team would not play, practice or meet unless “Kansas State University [puts] a policy in place that allows a student to be dismissed for displaying openly racist, threatening or disrespectful actions toward a student or groups of students.”
“To our family at Kansas State,” the statement began. “Due to the recent disparaging, insensitive and unsettling comments made by a fellow student, we as a football team, after consultation with students from campus organizations as well as students from the general student body, feel it is best for us to stand with the students. We are demanding that Kansas State University put a policy in place that allows a student to be dismissed for displaying openly racist, threatening or disrespectful actions toward a student or groups of students. We have resolved that we cannot play, practice or meet until these demands are heard and actions taken. We love Kansas State but we must stand together and protect all students moving forward.”
McNeil is the president of America First Students, an organization he launched in January. It describes itself as a “campus conservative organization defined by our support for closed borders, traditional families, the American worker, and Christian values.”
Earlier this year, McNeil denied allegations that he and the organization had ties to a white nationalist initiative. A report from the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a nonprofit group that monitors far-right activity, detailed the rebranding efforts of white nationalists. IREHR’s report found McNeil “lacks the same lengthy paper-trail of explicit white nationalism” as that of other leaders in this movement, but “he has already signaled his affinity with such ideas.”
McNeil, who has more than 31,000 followers on Twitter, has since retweeted numerous posts in support of him, including one that said football players “look so tough, but are actually big wimpy babies apparently.”
Following Floyd’s death, college athletes across the country spoke out against racial injustice. Some leveraged their power in an attempt to spark change on their campuses or within their programs.
Chuba Hubbard, a star running back at Oklahoma State, threatened to boycott team activities after his coach, Mike Gundy, appeared in a photo wearing a T-shirt with the logo of One America News Network, a far-right cable outlet that has called the Black Lives Matter movement “a farce.” Hubbard later posted a video with Gundy in which the coach committed to change.
Players at the University of Texas said they will not participate in recruiting or donor-related events unless the school renames several buildings, changes its traditional song and donates a percentage of athletic department revenue to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Mississippi State star running back Kylin Hill vowed not to play for the school if the state didn’t remove the Confederate symbol from its flag.
The NCAA lifted its suspension of athletic activities June 1, allowing athletes to return to organized workouts for the first time since the novel coronavirus pandemic brought sports to a halt in mid-March. Kansas State announced Saturday that the school suspended voluntary football workouts after 14 athletes tested positive.