The shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin has prompted renewed calls for social and racial justice in this country. Over the last week, NBA teams have boycotted their playoff games and MLB games have been postponed. College athletes have joined their professional counterparts in making their voices heard by not practicing, but instead having conversations with their coaching staffs and athletic departments.

Those talks did not just start this week, however. They have been taking place since the police shooting of George Floyd on May 25 amid rising tensions in this country.

While yesterday’s big news was in regards to ECU’s season opening football game against Marshall being postponed, it gave head coach Mike Houston the opportunity to get his players together — albeit spread out in Minges Coliseum — to discuss the postponement, as well as other topics, including racial injustice.

“We did discuss that today,” Houston said on a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday. “This has been an on-going discussion all summer. It’s something that we’ve had a significant dialogue with our leadership council about. We have a couple initiatives that we are working on right now in addition to the things that we did with voter registration and the video that the team put out this summer.”

That video referenced by Houston was put out on June 6 and featured different players talking about diversity and inclusion in the Pirates’ locker room. The video itself was framed by the words “Enough is Enough,” and was posted with the caption “In our locker room…words from our players.”

Houston said yesterday that he has spent a lot of time in diverse situations as both a student-athlete and coach and has strong feelings on the topic of equality.

“It’s a topic that’s very important to me,” Houston said. “I am very sensitive to the issue. Obviously being — I was a prep athlete, I was a college athlete. I’ve been a prep and college coach for many, many years. So I am accustomed to being in an environment that’s very diverse. I have close friends that have skin tone that’s different than mine and I have strong feelings about equality. That is something that’s very important to us as a coaching staff and also something that’s very important to our student-athletes.”

The Pirates are expected to wear patches supporting a social justice initiative this season. Earlier in the year, the use of a patch on the front of collegiate uniforms and one on the back where the nameplate would go was approved by the NCAA.

In previous comments, Houston has said the team was still deciding which initiative they wanted to support and would be unified in the decision and representation.

ECU’s football program has been on pause since last Thursday after identifying positive COVID-19 cases among individuals associated with the program. Yesterday, Athletic Director Jon Gilbert confirmed that 30 individuals remain in either isolation or quarantine stemming from the virus, meaning the pause will likely last into next week.

While the Pirates are unable to practice, Houston and his staff are taking the opportunity to have continued dialogue with student-athletes about issues that plague this country. Earlier today, Houston tweeted out six tweets further highlighting his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement and what it means to him.

One tweet read, “I feel strongly about standing up 4 what is right. So as a Christian, as an American, as a father, as a husband, as a friend and as a leader, I am beyond tired of watching killings of any kind at the hands of racism. There must be change in many areas, BUT THERE MUST BE CHANGE!”

Houston ended the series of tweets by writing, “I am going 2 continue dialogue with our players, coaches, administrators & @EastCarolina 2 find ways 2 positively impact our surrounding community 4 change. To fight against racial inequality and social injustice! 2 fight 4 a better future 4 our children! Please stand with me!”…”I stand by my words!”

His full series of tweets can be found below:

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