Last Thursday, Texas Longhorns junior wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey caused a social media controversy when he shared the feelings he’d submitted as a writing project for his American Literature class:
A Lil piece of my mind pic.twitter.com/khNhvryK2f— Lil'Jordan Humphrey (@LJ_Humphrey23) July 13, 2018
Humphrey’s writing immediately divided the Longhorns fan base, with a number of calls to silence his speech and speculattion about whether it would impact the football team’s chemistry.
So far, there haven’t been any signs of fractures in the football program along those lines and both head coach Tom Herman and athletics director Chris Del Conte expressed their support for Humphrey during Big 12 Media Days this week in Frisco.
“I was proud of him,” Herman said during a break-out session. “I was proud of him for expressing his feelings. I spoke to him... He wrote it and felt like he wanted to post and share it. I support him. That’s the beauty of social media.”
And why not? If Humphrey was asked to write about his feelings and felt strongly enough about them that if he wanted to take the calculated risk of making that public, then that’s firmly within his rights.
“I felt like his poem was about what he’s feeling, and you have to accept that and understand that,” Del Conte told Horns247.
Why begrudge someone their constitutionally-protected right to point towards the desire of oppressed minorities to secure their constitutionally-protected right to equality?
Del Conte’s support for Humphrey put his feelings in a larger historical context by comparing it to the political expression of musicians.
“Music always depicts what’s happening in society. Whether you’re looking at the Mamas and the Papas, Jim Croce and what was going on in the seventies, the Allman Brothers, CCR, or even to NWA in the eighties when I was growing up, you always have something that’s going to depict what’s in society,” Del Conte told Horns247. “Here’s a kid writing a poem for class about what he’s feeling, so I looked at it and thought, ‘You know what, I’m proud of what he’s talking about.’ Sports always manifest things that are going on in society, and here’s a kid just talking about what he feels like, and I can understand that.”
From outspoken sports figures during the civil rights movement like Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell to recent figures like Colin Kaepernick, sports has certainly manifested things going on in society, just like music.
Kaepernick is no longer an NFL quarterback because of his outspoken stance against police brutality. He lost his lucrative career after taking the bold stand of demanding equality.
When Humphrey talks about the disillusionment of college athletics as he works towards a career in the NFL, he’s feeling exploited as a college athlete and perhaps even wary of the exploitation that would occur as a professionally. Like Kaepernick, Humphrey knows that he could lose his career by expressing the same type of feelings he wrote down for his class project.
Then his pain veers back into the continued pain from slavery and institutionalized racism that continues to this day, the pain born from the sharp contradictions of the American experiment — some people are less free than others.
Anyone who can’t accept and understand that Humphrey was merely expressing his feelings might consider that doing so only further validates those feelings.