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‘We have lives outside of our jerseys’: Brendan Radley-Hiles, Tre Brown, Isaiah Thomas discuss social justice, Big 12’s unity campaign

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March

Junior defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles locks arms with junior running back T.J. Pledger to exit the Unity Garden on the South Oval during the march for unity on Aug. 28.

Redshirt junior defensive end Isaiah Thomas needed only 15 words to express his social justice viewpoint.

“If you can’t support me in my streets clothes, don’t support me in my uniform,” Thomas said in a Tweet on June 4. Thomas spoke more on what his tweet meant in a media Zoom conference on Wednesday.

“(Los Angeles Clippers coach) Doc Rivers said it best himself about a week or two ago when he said, ‘We love a country that doesn’t love us back,’” Thomas said. “When I'm out there on the field, everyone loves me. Everyone looks up to me and all of that. But, out there in my street clothes, I'm just another man out there who can be seen as a threat.”

“I take pride in treating everyone equally because everyone's made different, but everyone’s (still) equal. If you can’t support someone outside of where they’re seeing this love, then don’t support them at all.”

His message came near the start of an offseason which would later see Thomas and his teammates advocating even more for social change by marching OU’s South Oval. That demonstration, along with college football’s biggest stars continuously using their platforms for justice, led to the Big 12 creating its own social change campaign — “You See Us Differently”.

 

“(The Big 12’s Unity campaign) is very important with the world going on around us right now,” junior defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles said. “The University of Oklahoma and its football program, we've preached the word unity so much so I think that's the perfect word for us. And I'm all in on it, definitely

“(They're) very uncomfortable conversations, but they need to be had. This is the world that we live in right now. It's moving faster than ever. And the only way that we can kind of come together and figure this thing out is communication.”

The Big 12 Conference’s push for change is an important step for black football players to be seen as ‘everybody else’, senior cornerback Tre Brown believes.

“We have lives outside of our jerseys," Browns said. "When we go home, we're just a regular person like everybody else. We want to be treated like people... Don't look at us as a football player. Look at us as human beings.”

“I'm saying we have a life like everybody else. So, we expect to be treated fairly. Just like everybody else, we want a fair chance. ... Not everybody’s going to get you, (because) not everybody’s in your shoes. It’s hard for people to understand, (so) I feel like what people need to do better is understand.”

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