Pitt's Pat Narduzzi issues statement after he was criticized for use of word 'thug'

(Greensburg) Tribune-Review (TNS)
Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi

While racial tensions erupted across the U.S. after the death last month of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, former Pitt linebacker Elias Reynolds went on Twitter and called out coach Pat Narduzzi for the use of the word “thug.”

Another former player, Justin Morgan, also tweeted dissatisfaction with Pitt’s coach. Reynolds was dismissed from the team last year but graduated this year while still on scholarship.

Narduzzi, whose team returned to campus Monday after a nearly three-month coronavirus quarantine, responded Tuesday with the following statement, his second on the issue in the past week.

“Our team held some very honest and painful discussions over the past week about what it’s like to be black in America. While I’m usually the one directing the talk in team meetings, I made it a point to simply listen and learn. Players learn from coaches, but I’ve always said coaches learn from players, too. I’m thankful for how the young men in our program opened up and shared their personal, painful experiences.

“Our country today is very troubled. But I believe tomorrow can and will be better based on what I’m seeing and hearing from our players. They are inspiring to me. I’m thankful for them and honored to be their head coach.

“I want to address the word ‘thug’ and its use in our program. Simply put, it’s not allowed. Last season, I learned how that word, and what it suggests, has changed. Through our regular discussions in our weekly players’ leadership council, our players shared their feelings on that word. Our program understands it will not be part of our vocabulary.

“These can’t be one-time conversations. We are going to have ongoing dialogue, educating each other and caring for each other. Only by working together can we create a better team, a better community, a better country. That’s our goal and I’m honored to be part of that process.”

He concluded his first statement with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and #Unity.

Additionally, Pitt held a Zoom meeting last week with Narduzzi, his players, staff and administrators. After that meeting, nine members of the team spoke about racism in the U.S. on a video posted to Twitter by the Pitt Athletic Department.

Former Pitt kicker Ian Troost, who knelt during the national anthem before a game at Heinz Field in 2017, adddressed the use of the word thug in a conversation Monday with the Tribune-Review.

“As a white player and white person, I don’t know what it’s like to hear that term,” Troost said. “I can absolutely in hindsight see how that would not be super-welcoming term to hear as a black player on the team.

“Coach Narduzzi actually saying, ‘Black lives matter’ and the power and weight that that carries, I think that’s so powerful that he’s willing to see that.

“I can tell you my teammates really came away from that meeting feeling optimistic and really positive about the experience,” Troost said. “What I gathered is that they felt (Narduzzi) was very empathetic to the situation, really trying to listen to them and they certainly felt heard.”