Tyreke Smith showed up to Ohio State football camp last weekend with a message.
The four-star defensive end recruit out of Cleveland wore the shirt created by his brother, Malik (a basketball player at Bryant University).
It is a simple and poignant message that conveys the fear many black people face on a daily basis. Smith spoke about the shirt to ElevenWarriors.com.
“I decided to wear the shirt because I wanted to bring attention to the epidemic of blacks being killed at an alarming rate,” Smith said. “What we would like to do is have people talk about these issues to reduce the murder rate of African-Americans.”
"I felt I should wear it because I'm big on the African American culture and know the struggles that our race goes through. Whether people think that being black isn't a task or not. Being the individual I am and the spotlight I have, I felt that people would get the message if I wore the shirt. Because if I'm being real, people are looking at me even when I don't know and I knew they would see the shirt."
His brother Malik tweeted out this message of support and encouragement.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my little brother! We talked about this decision for him to wear the shirt! I told him that there was going to be backlash. Some people may not get it! Being a young black man we automatically have a target on our backs! Between the justice system and the black on black crimes between our own people! So yes it has some to do with both.
When we turn on the media we see that officers are being let off the hook for taking innocent lives of blacks! No jail time no nothing! We also turn on the media and see the countless number of black on black crimes and killings of our own people! Does this mean that all police are bad? NO! does this mean that all black people are bad NO! It means that we need to stop brushing issues under the rug and bring to light the everyday problems that black people face! This is how we feel and people are insecure by the truth!
My brother has used his platform to not only support myself and the family but for blacks as a whole! I will continue to support him through this #STAYWOKE”
Smith is currently uncommitted, but being courted by many top schools. No matter where Smith ends up playing college football, he’s shown willingness to stand up for the issues important to him. That’s what we should want from athletes at any age, much less as a teenager. Smith is standing out on a limb and just as his brother wrote on Twitter, there are risks to it.
After kneeling during the national anthem, players at Nebraska faced backlash from fans, boosters, and even a member of the school’s board of regents.
But protest is power, and Smith’s exercise of that right is important.