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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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."
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."
Nick Cody, who played for the Ducks from 2008-11, agreed with Akpla's sentiments.
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.