Lovie Smith: “systemic racism exists in our world”


Illinois Football coach Lovie Smith and Chicago Bears legend Brian Urlacher are good friends, dating back to their days together with the Monsters of the Midway. A few days ago, Urlacher gave his take on the current state of affairs in this nation.

It was lacking to say the least, and it conveyed just how much #54 doesn’t get it. He needs to listen to his friend Lovie Smith, who appeared on NBC Sports Network’s Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico today, where discusssed racial injustice in America.

While former Bears Defensive Coordinator and current Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said he doesn’t believe racism exists in the NFL, Smith explained why acknowledging systematic racism is the first step towards bringing change.

Lovie Smith also acknowledged the unrest and discontent in this country, saying that it’s a call for change, and that changes starts at the top. It was an indirect way of calling our national leadership, and that’s a message an overwhelming majority of our country can agree with right now.

“A lot of life experiences, Mike, have prepared me for this moment,” the Illini football coach said on the show today.

“When I say life experiences, I’m a 62 year old black man from the south in a biracial marriage. So, MaryAnne and I have seen an awful lot. I get a chance to lead men from all different places, all different nationalities. And as you mentioned, life skills do come up.

“As football players and coaches we live in a cocoon a lot of times where the real world doesn’t actually touch us. We teach, we develop, we talk about developing the man first and then we develop the football player.

“As we look, Mike, at what’s going on right now in our society, I’ve always encouraged our players to be involved in what’s happening in your normal world, your normal life.”

“I’ve been asked a lot of times, ‘hey Lovie can you give me a statement on what’s been going on right now. Can you do that?’ It’s so much more than that. Mike, a few things that I think we need to acknowledge. And we can’t go much further until do this. Systemic racism exists in our world.”

“We have to acknowledge that before we can go any further. I’ve seen it. It’s one thing to identify problems, then it’s how do we change that problem. That’s what we’ve been doing at the University of Illinois. Trying to make the world better but it can’t be words.

“I talk to our players about you have the right to protest. That’s great. That’s what college life is all about too. In a peaceful manner. But then what else do you do.”

“And that’s where we are right now. What else can we do to make football better and make the world better.”

“Eventually, sports do come down to what’s your record. That’s all people really want to know. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to lead NFL teams, of course to lead college programs.”

“In order for me to help the next person that looks like me, the next black person to get that opportunity, the wins and the losses do come up. But it is more than that.”

“When I say it is more than that, that’s what we’re dealing with on a daily basis. As these discussions happen right now, we have to really look at ourselves a little bit. The civil rights movement was about eliminating segregation and making this society a more integrated place. I look at what we have at the University of Illinois.”

“We’re led by a black chancellor, black head football coach, seven of the 10 assistant coaches are black men, our Director of Personnel, our Director of Man Development, our Director of High School Relations is a black female, our Director of Academics, so to me it’s about the platform of putting a model together to see exactly what can happen when you look beyond your normal comfort zone of people and what can get done and seeing people of a different color.”

“But, the record, it eventually comes back to it. I realize that.

“That’s why we’re getting in position. We need to do better. We need to do better. The University of Illinois is headed in the right direction. We made progress, we made noise last year. This year is our time to really knock down the door.”

“With our football team, they’ve seen what we’ve been doing all along. It’s not like we’re going to have to change an awful lot. But I think it has opened a lot of our eyes to what’s happening, not necessarily just at the University of Illinois, but with everyone else. And what I’ve always talked about, last election, guys, be informed.”

“This is the true to way to make people hear your voice. Right now, I see a lot of people protest. Protests are good. Then what do we do? It’s like there’s a death and a funeral, and everybody leaves and the next day after the funeral everybody goes home.”

lovie smith

“What I’m going to insist on, first off, all of our guys register to vote. But that’s just a part of it, registering to vote. Be informed.”

“If you don’t like what’s going on right now, and we in America have acknowledged that we don’t like what’s going on right now, we have to look at first our leader. The policies that he has in place. Congress, local government, this is how you have true change. And for us, it’s going to get back to making sure people, they are informed. I think we all know right from wrong.”

“We’ve all been taught that. And I think most of us really do know right from wrong. That’s what we’ve been preaching. We are going to continue to do that with our program. There’s diversity. And the only way to make real change is to come together.”

“Diversity does that.”


Lovie Smith has a reputation for not really saying a whole lot at his press conferences. That’s fine- those discussions are about just a mere game. When Lovie Smith wants to have discourse, on real serious issues, he has a whole of substantive things to say, at that’s what matters.

We all should listen.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly contributes to WGN TVSports IllustratedChicago Now and SB Nation.

You can follow Banks, a former writer for Chicago Tribune.comon Twitter and his cat on Instagram.

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  1. […] world, are speaking up right now about racial inequality and police brutality in the United States. Former Chicago Bears and current University of Illinois head coach Lovie Smith sounded off about systemic racism in our society while appearing on a talk show […]

  2. […] world, are speaking up right now about racial inequality and police brutality in the United States. Former Chicago Bears and current University of Illinois head coach Lovie Smith sounded off about systemic racism in our society while appearing on a talk show […]

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