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OU football: Chanse Sylvie crafts plan for law enforcement reform, coalition for change in wake of George Floyd death

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Sylvie

Then-redshirt junior Chanse Sylvie cheers before the spring game April 12, 2019.

OU redshirt senior defensive back Chanse Sylvie has a message and a plan, and he wants the word to get out.

After watching on TV Minneapolis resident George Floyd, an African American man, being killed on video by a police officer, Sylvie decided to write down everything he wants changed about American law enforcement.

On Sunday, Sylvie published over 700 words of what he, as a black man, is witnessing in his life and this country, and what he wants to see done about the lives of black Americans lost at the hands of law enforcement.

"I'm seeing the same thing happen over and over and over again," Sylvie said in an interview with The Daily. "How does this keep occurring?"

Sylvie, however, doesn't just want to offer his two cents as a prominent football player on social media and move on. Hence the detailed, four-step plan he wrote. With it, he wants to attract everyone willing to help out, "like-minded individuals,” to join a coalition to make change.

“I want (the media) to use this plan that I put in place and (people) to read this news article not as a civil rights activist or a football player with a plan to make life better, but as a cry for help in our community," said Sylvie, who graduated with a degree in political science and is working towards his master's in criminal justice, "for people to come out and work with me to build a team and a coalition of like minded individuals looking for a change."

With social media letting anyone speak their mind, reaching a solution and achieving unity is a challenge. So, instead of preaching into a vacuum, Sylvie wants to reach out to those individuals who have the power to listen and make a change.

"I'm looking for those lawyers," Sylvie continued. "I'm looking for those city officials. I'm looking for those representatives. I'm looking for those mayors, I'm looking for those senators and governors."

Sylvie's list consists of four things he wants law enforcement to implement. He wants to see 1.) a lifetime ban from law enforcement on police officers who were terminated because of misconduct; 2.) civilian complaints of officers to be shown publicly; 3.) a more strict hiring and recruitment process for future officers, a national standard for hiring; 4.) independent investigations of alleged police misconduct.

Those ideas, to Sylvie, are what law enforcement is lacking and what the public has been ignoring. Floyd's death, Sylvie said, was the end of Sylvie's waiting for justice.

But Sylvie isn't just drawing his ideas from what he's seeing on TV and social media. He's drawing from his own experiences that drove him to get his degree in political science and work toward his master’s.

"As a black male in America, when we see those red and blue lights flashing, we're thinking, 'I hope the person coming out his car likes me. I hope this person is having a good day,'" said Sylvie, who said in his resolution that he's been stopped by the police before and has feared the worst.

Over the last week, when Black Lives Matter protests were starting to spread all over America, Sylvie has been in contact with his teammates and coaches every day. With COVID-19 keeping every Sooner separated, that can serve as a challenge — trying to unite a team while not being able to see teammates face to face. 

But Zoom meetings with his teammates and coaches have been plentiful. OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch held a Zoom meeting with his defense on Monday to let his players know they're not alone, even when Sylvie is away from Norman, living with his family in Houston.

"He said it's hard for a 40-year-old white man to feel the feelings of a 20-year-old black man in America," Sylvie recalled of his meeting with Grinch. "But he said he's there for us and he's here for us. And he's able to open his arms."

Public support from the Sooners has been plentiful over the past 48 hours. Grinch, along with head coach Lincoln Riley and the whole staff along with fellow players have voiced their support for the cause on social media.

OU's coaching staff is led by a white man with black and white assistants, but Sylvie insists the racial concept of the staff is no barrier for the support, and seeing the public devotion to justice for all Americans, it only adds to the support Sylvie feels as he pursues the same goals of equality.

"Being able to see that love given to us and to know that they're there for us, that's why it's good to have those people," Sylvie said. "They're white, but that doesn't mean that they can't understand, that doesn't mean that they're not there for us."

Sylvie has one more year of eligibility at Oklahoma, and says his ultimate dream is to play in the NFL, but also wants to make sure the future is brighter for his two siblings — ages 13 and 8. For now, he's using his platform at Oklahoma to share his ideas for a better future for America.

"I do want to play in the league. That's been a lifelong dream," Sylvie said. "But I also do want to see better for my people. I also want to see a better future for my future child. 

"I do want to see a better life. I have the platform to be able to challenge and be able to bring about those changes, and I just want to use that correctly. ... If that's what civil rights is, then that's what I'll be."

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Caleb McCourry is the assistant sports editor at The Daily and is a junior at OU majoring in English. He's covered football, basketball and volleyball. 

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