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College football

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy quickly makes amends with star player after backlash over OAN shirt

Chuba Hubbard took issue with coach Mike Gundy.
Chuba Hubbard took issue with coach Mike Gundy.Matthew Putney/Associated Press

Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard threatened to boycott team activities after his head coach, Mike Gundy, appeared in a photo wearing a One America News Network shirt. Teammates then voiced their support of Hubbard.

OAN, which Gundy has publicly praised, is a far-right cable network that fervently supports President Donald Trump and regularly promotes conspiracy theories. A host on the network has called the Black Lives Matter movement "a farce."

"I will not stand for this," Hubbard wrote on Twitter. "This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it's unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE."

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Four hours after his tweet, Hubbard posted a video with Gundy. The coach said he had a "great meeting" with players about the shirt and "realized it's a very sensitive issue with what's going on in today's society."

Gundy was "made aware of some things that players feel like can make our organization, our culture even better than it is here at Oklahoma State," he said. "I'm looking forward to making some changes and it starts at the top with me. And we've got good days ahead."

Hubbard said: "I went about it the wrong way by tweeting. I'm not someone that has to tweet something to bring change. I should have went to him as a man. I'm more about action. That was bad on my part. But from now on, we're going to focus on bringing change and that's the most important thing."

After he posted the video, Hubbard tweeted: "No don't get it twisted. Foots still on the gas. Results are coming. It's not over."

Hubbard led the nation with 2,094 rushing yards as a sophomore last season and finished eighth in voting for the Heisman Trophy. He redshirted his first year on campus and was eligible to leave early for the NFL Draft but chose to return to school for his junior season.

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After George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody last month, protests against racial injustice swept across the country. College athletes — typically less inclined than their professional counterparts to speak out about issues in society or within their programs — have joined the conversation and have leveraged their power despite their amateur status and the lack of a union to offer protection.

“I hear and respect the concerns expressed by our Black student-athletes,” Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis tweeted Monday evening. “This is a time for unity of purpose to confront racial inequities and injustice. We will not tolerate insensitive behavior by anyone at Oklahoma State.”

Athletic director Mike Holder said in a statement: “This afternoon has been very disturbing. The tweets from the current and former players are of grave concern.”

After Hubbard's tweet, teammates voiced their agreement that the change Hubbard referenced was needed.

"I stand with you my brotha," junior wide receiver Braydon Johnson tweeted. "I refuse to keep feeling the uncomfort. This is bigger than football!"

"As an O-line we stand and support Chuba," wrote offensive lineman Teven Jenkins.

"I stand with him!" senior linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga tweeted.

Later Monday evening, Ogbongbemiga tweeted: "By voicing our opinion we are happy to have came to a conclusion and opened a gateway to create some serious CHANGE around Oklahoma State. My teammates and I have all agreed we will go ahead and resume all workouts and activities. We're all in this together."

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Former Oklahoma State players chimed into the conversation with their experiences that highlighted issues within the program.

"OSU Athletics and University need major change," tweeted Justice Hill, a former Oklahoma State running back who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens. "100% support brotha."

Patrick Macon, who transferred from Oklahoma State to South Florida after the 2018 season, wrote on Twitter, tagging Oklahoma State defensive back Kanion Williams: "I was Threaten I Was Gonna Get Sent Back To The Hood Numerous Time... How Many Times Did He Say He Was Gonna Send You Back To South Dallas.?"

Former Oklahoma State wide receiver LC Greenwood, who entered the transfer portal in January, wrote in a since-deleted tweet: "I was called a hood rat and thug on multiple occasions being threatened to be sent back home all because of wearing a Durag and sleeveless shirts."

In an April teleconference with reporters, Gundy referred to the novel coronavirus as the "Chinese virus," just as Trump did at times this spring. Gundy criticized the "mainstream media" for being too negative with its coronavirus coverage.

“I was flipping through stations. I found one — I don’t even know if anybody knows about this — it’s called OAN,” Gundy said on the teleconference. “It’s One America News. And it was so refreshing. They just report the news. There’s no commentary. There’s no opinions on this. There’s no left. There’s no right. They just reported the news. And I’ve been watching them the last week because they’re giving us the news and giving us more information, in my opinion, some of the positives are coming out. So that was refreshing.”

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The photo of Gundy wearing an OAN shirt was posted Wednesday on a Facebook page called Capt Steve Barnes Lake Texoma Striper Fishing Guide. Then an image of the post circulated widely on Twitter.

Hubbard and his teammates joined other college athletes who have used their platforms and social media to hold coaches and leaders accountable. Dozens of former Iowa football players spoke out about issues in the program that made black players feel uncomfortable and oppressed. Many allegations centered on longtime strength coach Chris Doyle. Iowa and Doyle reached a separation agreement Monday.

Texas football players asked the school to rename four campus buildings and remove “The Eyes of Texas” as the school song in an effort to make the campus more inclusive for the black community. The players’ statement listing these requests, tweeted Friday, said the team will not participate in recruiting or donor-related events until the university commits to the changes.