The Agents of Change: Yale men’s basketball head coach James Jones

The Agents of Change

(WTNH)– Eight minutes and 46 seconds. A moment in time now frozen. A black man in police custody struggled to breathe.

“I can’t breathe. Please, your knee on my neck”

A stunned nation gasped in utter disbelief.

“George Floyd. I Can’t breathe”

George Floyd’s last breath touched a raw nerve and reignited a movement.

“This is our plight and we won’t stop until it matters to everybody.”

“I am angry”

“Turn your pain into action, turn your tears into action, turn your grief into action. We can change this.”

It also gave birth to The Agents of Change.

“We can change this. We can change this. We must change this.”

My name is James Jones I’m the head basketball coach at Yale University.

I believe I was in a grocery store and I kind of pick it up on a Twitter feed, and I got home, and it was all over the news.

Thinking back to that day, it was just a terrible thing to actually view the death of a man in front of you on the streets in Minnesota.

I was able to meet with my team through Zoom. To a man, they were pretty silent they didn’t have a lot to say, but you can tell that they were feeling a lot and as my job as a leader I was going to try to help them through this situation let them know I was there for them.

It’s a hard thing to kinda walk through this with a group of young men because it’s something that I don’t understand. As a 56-year-old adult, I don’t understand why things that happened to George Floyd are continuing to happen as they did to Rodney King back when I was a much younger man.

My reaction to the NBA players [boycotting playoff games] was kinda dead-on. I was with them in lockstep in terms of what their decision was. We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand officers be held accountable.

What I was confused about, and continue to be confused about, are the thoughts of other people in this country, how they look down upon the NBA players, you know, kind of ‘the shut up and just play ball’. Athletes in the NBA, they were not trying to fight for their own rights; they were fighting for the rights of others.

If LeBron James gets pulled over in a car, 99.9% of the police officers in this country are going to know who he is so he’s not really fighting for his own right, he’s fighting for the rights of people who can’t take care of themselves, people that aren’t recognized by a police officer or someone else in control. So that is the main thing that I don’t believe that many people understand and it’s sad.

What now?

I was really happy with the number of people that I saw come out in the streets right in front of this news station. As a matter of fact, I walk down to the police station with a group and we had people from all different walks of life walking in lockstep protesting the murder of George Floyd.

I thought that was wonderful. I thought that was a great, great thing to actually see and to know that there are other people in this country that didn’t look like me that cared about or they care about the death of an unarmed person in the streets.

I felt like we have room for change… I’m hoping that’s so. I don’t know what tomorrow brings for us. It’s my hope through the actions of all the people that are in those crowds that I won’t have to worry about my 15-year-old son when he starts to drive in a car.

I feel like I’m an agent of change because I’m better educated and that I’m gonna be working toward as much as I can to help those around me do the same because education is the key for us to understand each other.

Ignorance is the biggest problem that we have in our country, or one of the major problems we have with each other, understanding who each other are and I think the more that we can get out and try to educate each other and kind of force people to learn or help people learn, is probably a better way to put it, the better off we are.

James Jones, Head Coach of Yale Basketball

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