Arkansas coach Sam Pittman opts for actions over PR statement
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FAYETTEVILLE — As coaches, administrators and athletes across the country have taken to social media over the past week, Sam Pittman has been publicly silent.
The first-year Arkansas coach did not release a statement about the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia or post a black square on Twitter with hashtags.
Instead, he opened up a dialogue with his players. In a Zoom teleconference with local media Wednesday afternoon, Pittman declined to share details of those conversations, but acknowledged they were happening daily.
It wasn’t until he was specifically asked about it that Pittman revealed he actually attended the protest against police brutality at the Square in downtown Fayetteville on Tuesday - something the public might have never learned had it not been for a fan who snapped a photo of him and shared it on social media the following day.
“What made me go? Because I felt like I needed to go,” Pittman said. “I felt like in my heart I wanted to go. I wanted to support our football team. I wanted to support the protest. That’s what I believe in.
“I think you can tweet about stuff, you can do a lot of things. You can take a picture for somebody to show, you can do whatever you want, but actions are strong, and I felt like, for me, the best way for me to address the situation, was to go be a part of what could be a solution. … I didn’t go down there for someone to take my picture. I went down there because I wanted to support the players on our football team and their families.”
He didn’t know an exact number, but Pittman said several staff members and players were also in attendance Tuesday. The only thing he asked of his players was to not stay late into the night in case the protest escalated from peaceful gatherings.
“We certainly were not in any shape or form asking them not to go down there because I wanted to go down there,” Pittman said. “But the protests had gotten dangerous at some point at some places once the sun went down, once it got darker, once the protests were later, so we just asked our team that if they could and they felt good about it, that we’d like for them to leave before sunset, and they did.”
Luckily, that didn’t come to fruition Tuesday, as the crowd of thousands on the square remained peaceful throughout.
“The people there were incredible,” Pittman said. “I went by the square this morning and it was such a great situation. You wouldn’t even know there was anybody down there, so the people of Fayetteville did a wonderful job with the protest.”
Pittman struggled to find the right words to describe exactly how he felt following the protest, but he said he was proud to have attended.
“It was very powerful,” Pittman said. “I was very honored to be a part of it and was glad I was able to go down there along with others on our coaching staff and our football team.”