App State football cancels practice after team discussion


Courtesy App State Athletics

App State football players and coaches shared this image on social media after opting to cancel practice Thursday. The decision to cancel practice came after a team-wide discussion about racial injustice.

Connor Davidson and Cameron Burnett

On Thursday, App State football made the decision to not hold practice in light of racial injustice issues in the country. The team instead used that time to discuss the issues and create a dialogue between players and coaches.  Head coach Shawn Clark addressed the media about why this decision was made.

“Very disappointing that it’s 2020 and we’re still having this conversation of racial injustice in our country,” Clark said. “Many of our players are hurting right now, and coaches also. And what’s happened is not OK. App State football decided today that as a unit, as a group, as a team, we weren’t going to practice.”

Around 1 p.m. Thursday, Clark called a meeting with the team’s unity group, which is comprised of twelve players ranging from freshman to seniors, and has six white players and six players of color. 

After hearing what the unity group had to say about racial injustice, Clark called a full team meeting before practice was supposed to start to address the whole team. He made it clear that he wanted his players to know he supported them and wanted to hear what they had to say.

“It’s my job as the head coach to make sure that I have my players’ backs no matter what,” Clark said. “And as long as I’m the head coach, they will have the final say. And that’s why I love this team so much.”

After the meeting, the team went to the locker room to get ready for practice, when senior defensive lineman Elijah Diarrasouba and senior running back Marcus Williams Jr. approached Clark saying the team wanted to talk more about this issue.

“I went up to the team in the locker room and had a conversation, and it was a great dialogue, and I told them we need to go to the Mountaineer room,” Clark said. 

During the meeting, over thirty players stood up to share thoughts, stories, frustrations and experiences. The meeting lasted around an hour and a half, even though Clark said it seemed like five minutes. 

“We said if we’re going to make a change it has to be together,” Clark said. “We decided to go down to the field and wrap arms with each other, take a picture and let the whole world know… that App State football is together.”

Clark said the team wants to make a positive change, and not just “lip service.”

This is a challenge that the team is taking head on, and wants to find a solution to help make a difference. For Clark and the rest of the team, these are issues that transcend football. 

“Ultimately we’re going to be judged on wins and losses; that’s what my record is going to be here,” Clark said. “But to me it’s more than that, it’s a forty-year decision for me… And I told them don’t let someone write your story for you… You have the pen last, so before the ink dries, write it.”