"All Redbird lives matter."
A statement from Illinois State University Athletic Director Larry Lyons during an all-athletics Zoom call Wednesday evening had ISU student-athletes on social media calling out against Lyons.
"It caught us off guard hearing something like that because he is our athletic director," ISU running back Jeff Proctor said. "He is supposed to take care of us and watch out for us. It makes us feel like that he doesn't have our back and doesn't care about the Black community. How a lot of people took it is down playing the Black Lives Matter movement."
Outcry came from Twitter as associate head track and field coach Mary Wood spoke out against the statement.
The movement is BLACK LIVES MATTER. The statement “All Redbird Lives Matters” is insensitive and frankly one that attempts to drown the movement. This is in#BLM #BreonnaTaylor #JacobBlake #GeorgeFloyd #toomanymore #SayTheirNames— Mary Wood (@MaryKWood11) August 27, 2020
After Wood tweeted out Lyons' statement without naming him, senior track and field student-athlete Mya Robinson cleared up who issued the message.
Coach Wood, I’m not even about to Lie to you, I understand what you’re saying, but that coming from an AD, why should I represent something when they OBVIOUSLY can’t see what the problem is. He knew what he was saying, he meant what he said.— Magicc Mya 🦋 (@Im_Myaaa) August 27, 2020
Lyons' statement had unintended consequences he had not pictured.
"My intention was to tell all 413 student-athletes that they matter to me and I care about them," Lyons said. "The words I choose to use, ‘All Redbird lives matter’ was offensive to many of our student-athletes and I know I hurt a significant number of them by the choice of those words. That was not my intention and I am truly sorry for that.
"Black lives do matter and I am serious when I say that, and all Redbird student-athletes lives matter equally. I should have said that, and I did not. I have a lot of trust to build back."
Despite this message student-athletes were still hurt by Lyons' statement.
"What he said is what he meant. That is what I am taking it as," Robinson said. "The statement is cool and all but once you say something most of the time you mean it. Saying all Redbird lives matter and all lives matter. You know the difference; it is not that hard. The fact he said it, I know he meant it. He knew he could have said Black lives matter. A Redbird is not a life. The fact they are saying these made up statements don't make sense to me. If you can't say Black lives matter you don't care about us."
Track and field student-athlete Jordan Wilkerson also commented on Twitter that they "need to take me off that poster and all the other (Black Lives Matter) stuff they 'care' about."
After the Thursday outcry Lyons scheduled a meeting with ISU athletics to readdress the issue. Lyons used the meeting to try and clear the air.
"He just said he was there for us and he regrets what he said," Proctor said. "He said Black lives do matter. He said he did not mean that like that. He said we probably don't believe in the words but he will show."
Proctor also reveled that student-athletes are planning a protest and peaceful rally celebrating Black athletes and students with speakers and music.