Following the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, UCLA head football coach Chip Kelly released a statement. But not everyone is convinced Kelly’s words are authentic, including three of his former players.
“It’s hard to see our community — and humanity — so deeply hurting,” Kelly wrote in the post. “The pain is felt by everyone in our Bruin family. In a time of such tragic destruction, we have been trying to understand how to best offer support to our players.”
A message from head coach Chip Kelly: pic.twitter.com/AfiWQ8fvi9— UCLA Football (@UCLAFootball) June 1, 2020
Kelly’s statement continued with a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about the need to “organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.” He added “We must listen to each other, and learn from each other, and realize that all of us are connected to the sorrow and suffering and anger. We must unite, it is our only hope, and the first steps must be taken now.”
His post caught the attention of three of his former players: Bolo Olorunfunmi, Stephen Johnson III and Breland Brandt.
Johnson III played for Kelly during the 2018 season before departing from the team with one season remaining on his eligibility. He retweeted Kelly’s message and asked, “What does this mean?” On another tweet, the former UCLA receiver wrote “Let’s let the truth be known he threw away classes of black athletes’ careers and did not care.”
What does this mean? https://t.co/Pjayrc4vzm— STEPHEN JOHNSON III (@SJ_III) June 1, 2020
Exactly. Let’s let the truth be known he threw away classes of black atheletes careers and did not care https://t.co/6jDNGtykBz— STEPHEN JOHNSON III (@SJ_III) June 1, 2020
Former UCLA outside linebacker Breland Brandt responded to one of Johnson III’s tweets, saying Kelly “dismantled an entire class of athletes (majority black) and thought it’d be a good idea to copy and paste some sympathy.”
Brandt retired from football after four concussions in three years, but ultimately said a UCLA staffer calling him a “quitter” over text message led to his departure.
Bro dismantled an entire class of athletes (majority black) and thought it’d be a good idea to copy and paste some sympathy. lord help da man🤦🏾♂️— Bre (@breelannd) June 1, 2020
Bolu Olorunfunmi, a former running back whom the UCLA medical staff barred from participating in the final games of his senior season in 2018 after repeated concussions, questioned Kelly’s intentions and criticized him for using MLK quotes rather than his own.
“But what are YOU going to do???,”Olorunfunmi said in a thread. “How is UCLA gonna be different and take that first step you are talking about?? Can’t ride the quotes of MLK forever. I wanna hear YOUR true take.”
All these ncaa programs with white men at the face of it have the lives of so many minority young men behind it need to do MORE! I’m sorry mlk tweets don’t cut it! In a time like this those young men look for guidance! I know I never got it. That’s step 1: CARE...REAL CARE.— Bolu Olorunfunmi (@theonlybolu) June 1, 2020
Not everyone agreed with the criticisms of Kelly. Many Oregon players came to his defense, including former Ducks linebacker Tyson Coleman. Coleman said he wouldn't "let these scrubs try and defame this man."
Do not let these scrubs try and defame this man. I have seen what happens when guys don’t get the playing time they think they deserve. Chip wants to WIN over ANYTHING. I’m not saying he’s the best role model etc but I’d look into this one 👀 https://t.co/ZIXQcsXac1— Tyson Coleman (@TysonColeman33) June 2, 2020
Former Oregon wide receiver Elvis Akpla responded to a story from the LA Times and said, "I'm not going to hear this toxic garbage. Chip has done so much for so many players."
As a former player of Chip's, and a black man, this story is a complete piece of crap. Chip is misunderstood. He's not a perfect man, and neither is any other human being. I'm not going to hear this toxic garbage.— Elvis Akpla (@ElvisAkpla) June 2, 2020
Chip has done so much for so many players. Please shut your mouth
Nick Cody, who played on the Ducks offensive line from 2008-11, agreed with Akpla's sentiments.
Well said, brother. And he made a lot of us better whether we liked it or not. There was a method to a madness but never a bit of the hate or prejudice. I think the only things Chip hated were laziness, excuses and wasted time.— Nick Cody (@justfollow61) June 2, 2020
The 52-year-old coach has not yet commented further than his original tweet on this matter.
Kelly, who coached at Oregon from 2007-12 before stints in the NFL with Philadelphia, San Francisco and now UCLA, has received criticism for his decisions from other former players.
Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson recently spoke out about his controversial release in 2014 and how upon becoming a free agent, he wanted to stay in the NFC East just to face Philadelphia and Kelly twice a year.
Be sure the listen to the latest Talkin' Ducks podcast with host Jordan Kent.