University of Memphis student athletes hold protest march in response to racial inequality

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Dozens of University of Memphis student-athletes took part in a protest march across campus Sunday morning.

The march was held in response to the death of George Floyd, in solidarity with other marches nationwide.

They also invited a special guest.

A vision by a few members of the University of Memphis football team turned into a stand-in solidarity by the entire athletics department.

“Right now, tomorrow, and forever – we are all in for social justice,” said Ryan Silverfield, Memphis Head Football Coach. “Today needs to stand for something. Have an understanding of why we are doing this walk.”

Silverfield kicked off Sunday’s protest march with a few words of wisdom.

“As we’re walking, as we are marching, as we’re together, think about what we are walking for. Think about the change we want to make,” he said.

“Every single day we need to continue to battle this and make a positive difference in our world. It starts with you. Student-athletes, you guys have a wonderful platform. Use it. Let’s be the difference makers.”

Silverfield said the march was organized by the football team, but they managed to keep things really hush-hush.

Nobody really knew this was going to be happening in Memphis. Even the route of where these student-athletes were going was being protected to ensure their safety.

Officials were uncertain if the student-athletes were allowed to interview with us on-camera because they were on-campus, but classes aren’t in session.

To avoid getting anyone in trouble, we let their action speak for themselves.

The final destination, a landmark dedicated to the Memphis State 8, or the first group of black students to integrate Memphis State University in 1959.

There, they heard from Bertha Rodgers, one of those pioneers.

“Maybe you can throw that ball, pass it under the pandemic for us,” she said. “Help us end the racism that still exists in this nation.”

“We have to be real about it. We have to address it. You have to do all that you can to eradicate some of the racism that exists. But be thankful you are students here, that things have changed so much for you.”