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Kirk Herbstreit breaks down in tears talking about racism on ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’

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The college football season has begun and, during an era of protests and a coronavirus pandemic, ESPN’s first Saturday telecast was anything but usual.

The hosts were far apart, broadcasting from their homes rather than appearing before a boisterous, sign-loving crowd on a campus somewhere, and “College GameDay” devoted time to the protests of systemic racism and police brutality that have taken place across the country.

Kirk Herbstreit broke down in tears as he spoke of the need to change. He shared a quote, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that he had been given by Stanford Coach David Shaw and he wondered what will follow, asking, “What will lead to change?”

“[He] said, ‘Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.’ The Black community is hurting. ... How do you listen to these stories and not feel pain and not want to help?” Herbstreit asked, weeping.

He noted that it’s impossible for White people to fully understand what it’s like to face racism, but “you can listen and try to help because this is not okay. It’s just not. We’ve got to do better, man. We’ve got to lock arm in arm and be together.”

Maria Taylor, the show’s host, held a discussion on the topic with several players.

“I know Trayvon Martin, that was the first time I experienced that the system was against me, or against us as Black people. From that point, all the little microaggressions that people were saying and doing towards me became really apparent,” Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds said of the 2012 shooting death of Martin, a Florida teen. “When I’m walking around campus, I could have a Nike hoodie on, Nike sweatpants, Jordans, not affiliated with Michigan and someone will come up to me and go, ‘Oh, do you play football or basketball?’ Like I can’t just be a Black kid … there for academics.”

He went on to say: “And when people would say, ‘Oh, you’re pretty articulate for a Black kid.’ It’s just one of those things where you start seeing that there are these things you have to deal with … that you just know White people don’t have to think about.”

Clemson running back Darien Rencher noted: “The unity that’s come through college football probably is needed more than ever before. We probably should have done it before this, but it’s been cool to see the opportunity of this moment bring a lot of guys together.”

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