Clemson's football team participated in a march in support of equality on Saturday that started at Bowman Field on the university campus and lasted just under two hours, with thousands of attendees.
The march to raise awareness of social injustices and police brutality experienced by black Americans was organized by four Clemson players: running back Darien Rencher, linebacker Mike Jones Jr., wide receiver Cornell Powell and quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Prior to the start of the event, Lawrence said: "This isn't just a stance that we want to take for one day and then forget about and then move on with our lives; we really want to fight for this every day. And that's really the commitment that we're making by doing this today."
Once gathered at Bowman Field, Rencher told the crowd: "Hey, one thing I want to say off the bat: This is bigger than football. We know we go to Clemson; football holds a lot of weight here. And so we feel the responsibility -- we know we're accountable, talking to our community. So that's one of the biggest reasons we wanted to do this, is we know the platforms we hold, we know the voices we can amplify. One thing we want to do today is not shy away from anything."
The team and supporters marched for 2 miles, saying various Black Lives Matter chants and shouting the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, and Taylor was fatally shot by Louisville police in her home on March 13.
"Nobody -- nobody -- should feel less or be treated as less because of the color of their skin. God loves every single one of us the same," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told the crowd. "Black lives more than matter; black lives significantly matter, and equally matter.
"And for far too long, that has not been the case for the black community. And now is the time to push for equal justice and no longer tolerate police brutality or racism of any kind in this country. But as you saw today, and moving forward, it has to be every -- every -- one's responsibility. Not just some people's responsibility; it has to be everybody's responsibility to be more aware, to learn more and to speak out against racial inequality."
This week, Swinney drew criticism for not firing assistant Danny Pearman after Pearman used a racial slur during practice in 2017. Swinney addressed the situation in a 14-minute statement on Monday in which he offered support for his players and encouraged them to push for change.
In his speech on Saturday, Swinney also brought up former Houston Texans teammates and former Clemson players DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson, who led the charge on social media to petition that Clemson remove the name of John C. Calhoun from the school's honors college. Calhoun, who served as vice president under John Quincy Adams from 1825 to 1829 and under Andrew Jackson from 1929 to 1832, advocated for slavery, saying it was "a positive good."
Clemson's board of trustees voted Friday to change the name from Calhoun Honors College to Clemson University Honors College.
"Nuk Hopkins will always be remembered for his amazing career -- and fourth-and-16," Swinney said among an applause from the crowd in reference to Hopkins' 26-yard completion that lead Clemson to a victory over LSU in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl -- and into national prominence. "And Deshaun Watson will always be remembered for his fearless leadership and how he led us to our first national championship in 35 years. They both brought us a lot of joy, a lot of joy to Clemson.
"We should no longer expect them or our players to hear our cheers if we do not hear their cries."
After he was done speaking, Swinney introduced Lawrence and Rencher.
"The past few weeks, I've been uncomfortable," Lawrence told the crowd. "That word 'uncomfortable' will be an important one in all of our steps in our journey to bring equality.
"I've learned that every truly good thing in life comes from being brave and stepping into the uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable to set aside everything I know about America and listen to someone else's perspective. However, it's necessary."
Rencher brought things to a conclusion.
"The struggle for freedom means more than just sympathy, but solidarity," Rencher said. "Sympathy feeds bad about a situation. Solidarity joins us; they stand with people that are struggling, and they fight for them -- which you guys have done today."