It was Monday, June 1 – a week after the death of George Floyd and Pittsburgh Steelers were scheduled to meet the team.
It was assumed that this will be a regular meeting of the video that has become commonplace for NFL teams during the off-season.
But after the events of this weekend, the Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin decided to change the plan.
There were protests in thousands of cities in the United States in support of the black movement of matter, and in Pittsburgh they descended into riots.
“The meeting was devoted to the topic” Christian Scotland-Williamson, the Steelers’ British tight end, told Bi-bi-si Sports.
“It was an open discussion forum for two hours, where all the players were able to voice how they felt. Even the owner and General Manager were on call.
“When you see the image as George Floyd it stays in your memory, it’s burned in your mind.
“So it was refreshing, from the point of view of a coach, to understand that football must take a backseat that day. How can we talk about XS and OS when you’re worried if your brother or cousin is going to be shot to death in his car after he was stopped by the police?”
‘It’s not as if he’s a Unicorn – that’s it there
Scotland-Williamson believes that the opportunity to assess the mood of his players is typical Tomlin. The 48-year-old is the fourth of the length of tenure of head coach in the NFL and won the super bowl in 2009.
But in a League where there’s 32 teams and about 70% of the players are black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME), Tomlin is one of four BAME coaches.
“His man management is exceptional, his ability to read people and push the right buttons,” said the Scotland-Williamson.
“And he doesn’t treat black players to white players. In the locker room, it is colorless. His ability to motivate people goes something like this, and ultimately that’s what coaching at the highest level – resource mobilization and communication around a common goal.
“I don’t think, because he’s a black coach, he is able to treat black players better than anyone else. He’s just a great coach who knows how to communicate with others.
“He’s already 13 years in Pittsburgh and not lose the season. This entry speaks for itself. And it’s not as if he’s a unicorn people like him there.”
The maternal grandparents of Scotland-Williamson was part of Generation Windrush that left the Caribbean to the UK “the story of migrants is something I’ve always taught”.
But during the alarm, he learned about the American civil rights movement and reading books about the former owner of the Steelers, Dan Rooney, after whom the Rooney rule is named, and Tony dungy, the only black coach to win a Super bowl, in addition to Tomlin’s.
“Understanding the journey, Tony dungy and what he had to overcome, the question resonates: why is it so rare in the League with 70% black players for there to be so little black leadership?” asked Scotland-Williamson.
He was the first black coach since I have under sevens football
The Rooney rule was introduced in 2003 to provide a BAME candidate is interviewed for each job coach in the NFL. Today there is another Belarusian coach, so the rate was increased this year.
The coaching staff of the NFL is much more diverse than Scotland-Williamson experienced in Rugby, though. 27-year-old footballer played in the boarding school and Loughborough University before signing Worcester warriors 21. The former castle then to quit Rugby League to pursue a career in the NFL, joining the Steelers in 2018.
“This is the first time I had a black coach who was not my uncle, when I played for seven football,” he said.
“As coach Mike Tomlin was an eye-opening experience. I have never kept a black man in this context. You should see something like this, to believe that it’s possible that someone [like you] can have such authority and influence.
“When I joined, he said, ‘I know what this process will look like, but you’re now free Pittsburgh, you’re not a Rugby player, and we are going to hold you to this standard.
“It was exactly what I needed to hear. I don’t want to be treated differently [because he was new to the sport]. I wanted to feel that everything I got I earned”.
Helping children who are thrown by the wayside’
Now Scotland-Williamson is trying to be an example for others, as Tomlin was with him.
Academy NFL started in London in September last year, giving 16-to-18-year-old the opportunity to study in an ordinary qualification at the same time, enjoying the elite American football training and coaching by NFL players such as Scotland-Williamson.
Because of the epidemic of the coronavirus, this year’s selection is video.
“I managed to run two races,” Scotland said Williamson. “I don’t [rugby] academies, here I am and financial qualifications. I was still able to play professional Rugby, but at the same time, from the masters [in International Business].
“It’s often portrayed that if you want to be a professional athlete, you can’t focus on anything other than sports, but I’m working towards changing that mindset, especially for young black children who are thrown by the wayside.
“The chance to make it in the NFL is very thin, but it’s not just professional sports, make music and become a doctor or lawyer. There are many professions where you can earn £100,000 [a year]to ensure the fulfilment and financial freedom. You just don’t hear about them, if people in your circle or network, there are no such professions.
“Now, when I speak with young people, I try to broaden their horizons about the possibilities outside of sports, and how to use its discipline to the sport as a springboard to something greater in your life.”
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