Just about every West Virginia fan knows by now the situation that transpired with DC Vic Koenning and rising sophomore, Kerry Martin Jr. As of now, Koenning is on administrative leave as directed by Athletic Director Shane Lyons:
“I want to thank Kerry Martin for having the courage to bring his concerns to light. We will not tolerate any form of racism, discrimination or bias on our campus, including our athletic programs. Coach Vic Koenning has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately, and the department will work with the appropriate parties to conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations. This is serious, and we will act appropriately and in the best interests of our student-athletes.”WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons, June 23, 2020
Whether you side with Kerry Martin or Vic Koenning doesn’t matter. Koenning was speaking his opinion on political and social situations and Martin felt his comments were offensive. While some will champion Martin for speaking up, others will shame him for being a “Snowflake”. However, what came from it was a discussion. Two sides – that didn’t agree – talking about how they felt. This is exactly what we have been missing in today’s culture.
Whether the issue is paid players, players and coaches speaking on politics, or anything else, it doesn’t matter. You are entitled to all of your opinions on these matters, and creating a discussion and going in with an open mind willing to listen to the other side will only help bridge the gap.
This isn’t a red versus blue issue or black versus white issue. This is a human issue. Hiding behind our screens and yelling at strangers on our phones under the cloak of anonymity has made everyone feel invincible. Instead of having discussions and coming to an understanding, we shout each other down and tell others how they are supposed to feel. If the 2016 election taught us anything, its that you can’t just call half the population stupid or deplorable’s and expect them to fall in line.
So do I think Vic Koenning is racist? No. His apology, despite being over the internet, was genuine. But most importantly, Martin did not describe Koenning as some monster. Martin confirmed, Koenning drove three hours to make sure Martin was fed during the quarantine. He also stated “Coach Vic has done good by me and he is not a bad person but his thoughts and beliefs are mislead.”
In my eyes, I don’t think Koenning is some closet clan member. But I also believe Martin has a right to call him out and explain his situation and how he viewed the comments. Especially considering he didn’t want Koenning immediately fired, he just wanted to be heard and respected.
Old white people want to tell young black athletes how they should feel despite never understanding the struggle they face. On the other hand, the “woke” side of the country has next to no life experience and wants to tell the older generation why they are dumb and racist. In either case, their isn’t much respect coming from either side. To circle back to the 2016 election, name calling and shouting only drives the wedge deeper into the divide.
Instead of the “Black Lives Matter” vs “All Lives Matter” debate, talk to someone on the other side. Everyone believes they are the smartest person in the room and only their opinion can be right. But just because you are half way through a general studies program or a 65 year old that never left their home town, you don’t get to tell people how they feel. Some are easily offended while others can’t be bothered. Canceling the world and calling for everyone to be fired isn’t the answer. However, digging your heels in and not listening is also destructive.
The most destructive sentence is “We do it this way because that is how we have always done it”. We need to adapt, we need to learn and we need to listen. We need to reserve having people fired and labeling them a racist for the truly bad people out there. There is still a lot of hate in the world and we need to strive to always be better.
So, West Virginia and Neal Brown did the right thing. They placed him on leave and will conduct an investigation. If Koenning is guilty of truly mistreating his players and being a racist, he should be stripped of his job for pushing hatred about the same people that he built his career on. If not, Koenning should reach a common ground with his players and then return as the defensive coordinator.
In the race to be first, we stopped chasing the truth. Cancel culture isn’t the cure. Arguing on social media isn’t the cure. Accusing and demanding everyone be fired just hurts the cause. Instead of trying to show everyone how woke you are, just take a step back and think of the other side.
One last thought, I also get fans being upset with players speaking out. We as a society don’t like change. Players a decade ago didn’t have a voice. But for just a minute, think about the sacrifice these players make for little compensation. Most won’t see the NFL and will have to deal with a lifetime of injuries. And maybe some have done something stupid or handled social situations poorly. But I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t the most buttoned up person at 19 years old. I can’t look at them in the scope of how I would have handled a situation today because I have experience they don’t. I have faced situations and problems they haven’t, and vice versa.
Again, the thing lost in all of this is what is at the base of what so many players want. Respect. We may never eradicate racism or fix the world’s problems. But if we can just take a step back, listen and work together to come to an understanding, it would be a good start.