WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WWBT)- Mike London was the first African-American head football coach at Richmond, Virginia and now William and Mary. When George Floyd's death sparked a nation-wide protest effort, London sprung into action.
“I wanted to reach out to all of my African-American players, players of color because of the significance of what happened,” London said. “I said ‘listen, don’t let anyone marginalize or minimize you. You’re here for a reason, you’re going to get a great education.’ And then we had administrative meetings, then we had team meetings... there’s been a number of meetings that have gone on.”
London currently patrols the Tribe sidelines, but back in the mid-1980s, he patrolled the streets of Richmond as a police detective.
"I've seen the worst of what people do to each other," London recalled. "Literally what comes out of your mouth is the power of life and death. How you speak to people, you can escalate or deescalate a situation, you can encourage or discourage."
In a time period where he's leading young men trying to make a difference, his experiences and perspective in dealing with racism while in uniform can help him offer guidance to his players now.
"When a hurt player, emotionally frustrated player, comes and just wants to vent and talk about his feelings, I know 100 percent exactly what he's talking about."
London acknowledges that law enforcement does need to see some changes. He's proud to see his players fighting for that change, noting that some of them have organized rallies themselves, while others have protested peacefully.
"These young people want action. They want action, not talk. They want to see progress in the making, not down the road."
It hasn't been just London's black players. Teammates on the field, student-athletes of all races have united to fight this battle as well.
"When you have players of different colors, and particularly white players, on our team that take up the cause and go lock arms, step and step with our players of color, it sends a powerful message."
That message- listen, learn, and act. London credits William & Mary President Katherine Rowe and Director of Athletics Samantha Huge with listening and creating positive conversation.
“This is a generation that wants to see change and it’s important that the leadership that are around them support that, listen to it, engage with them and also implement those things that can provide change.”
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