As a coach's wife in an interracial marriage who will celebrate my twentieth anniversary this summer, I wanted to let you know how much I've appreciated your boldness over the past few months. I'm not sure you realize how brave you are, but as someone who has spent a few decades hearing her marriage is something God frowns on simply because of the color of my skin, well, I think you're courageous.
I'm not the only one. I happen to have the unique position of seeing the analytics for the Friday Night Wives website and social media, and your blog posts are some of the most viewed, even if they don't seem to receive a lot of public interaction.
Crystal, you said the quiet parts out loud. But, then again, it seems that you've had quite the unwelcoming start to your young marriage. I'm sorry for that. I wish I could stay things will get easier; however, you are facing situations that haven't changed in at least two decades.
Just like you, I can only share my experiences. I've been around the football world a little longer than you, so I thought it might be helpful to let you know that you are seen and heard. My heart broke as you shared with the world what I've known for two decades. Interracial couples are prevented from pursuing jobs in certain communities because the towns aren't accepting of a couple's love.
The issue for black coaches runs much deeper than who they choose to marry. The most difficult part is that much of this could change if coaches treated each other with the same respect they hope to receive from others.
Unequal Hiring Practices
As a head football coach at the college level, I've stood next to my husband and heard every rationale as to why white coaches were passed over for the positions my husband received.
- The college needed to meet a diversity quota
- The college thought minorities would stay longer with a black head coach
- The college was looking to diversify the campus as part of a long-term plan
- The white coach would have been hired if they applied but knew the college wanted to look at minorities, so they didn't apply
I've often wondered if these same men walk up to random white coaches and say things like, "Oh yeah, I was going to apply for that job, but I knew the school had a white hiring quota to meet."
The intention may not be to imply that a black coach isn't qualified for the job they have, but that is exactly what happens. It's a bold assumption for someone to determine if they know a stranger's resume or know they are a better interviewer and understand the school's hiring needs!
And to be clear here, hiring quotas don't actually exist. Only in the NFL are they required to interview minority coaches. Nowhere does it say anyone must employ anyone.
Every year USA Today releases the salaries for the head coaches for the NCAA Head Coaches. Here's the list of NCAAF Coaches as of November 2020, and here's the list of NCAA Basketball Coach Pay as of March 2021.
Of course, it's challenging to have a conversation about fair pay when the head coaches' percentage is so low. The Louisville Courier-Journal explains:
Of the 1,073 head coaches in NCAA sports at Power Five programs, only 79, or 7.4%, are Black.
Of the 65 Power Five schools, 15 do not employ a single Black head coach in any NCAA sport, though seven of those schools do have at least one other head coach of color.
Safety When Traveling
For years we have had to remind our sons they don't have to privilege of wearing their hoods up when they are walking outside regardless of how cold it is. We tell them they can't touch items on store shelves they think are interesting or put their hands in their pockets when walking through a store.
Now, with a child preparing to drive, I find myself rehearsing an extensive list of warnings. "Remember, if you get pulled over, keep your hands visible at all times. Don't open the car door, don't make sudden movements, and always speak respectfully." I try to speak in a calming tone because I don't want to increase the already present fear.
But there's another layer to the concern that I hold as a coach's wife married to a black coach. Whether during the recruiting season or while in charge of a bus full of athletes, there have been times when I've found myself momentarily filled with anxiety. What if the wrong person is driving this week? What if Ordell pulls off at the wrong stop while recruiting? What if he booked a hotel in the wrong area?
These questions may seem silly however they started from a personal experience. An administrator of a previous college gave me a map before a road with a list of towns to avoid when traveling with my sons.
What Can We Do?
Crystal, I know that this post may affirm your experiences. But it could also leave you feeling hopeless if I don't offer some suggestions on how to get through the difficult moments. Of course, nothing is foolproof, but I've found that the best thing I can do is listen. My husband has dealt with the challenges of life as a black man in America his entire life. As his partner, it's my job to hear him and strive to see his side of a situation just like I want him to do for me.
Next, I spend a lot of time praying. God is the God of justice. In the book of Amos, God tells the Prophet that the Israelites are going to face divine intervention. God is bothered by the Israelites practice of religion without righteousness. By oppressing the poor and failing to practice justice, the Israelites were behaving unrighteously; justice was to be enacted as a core of God's message in Amos' prophetic teachings.
Amos Chapter 5 reveals this. A few of my favorite verses to pray are:
- For the Lord says to the house of Israel: Seek me and live!
- Those who turn justice into wormwood also throw righteousness to the ground.
- 14-15. Pursue good and not evil so that you may live, and the Lord, the God of Armies, will be with you as you have claimed. Hate evil and love good; establish justice at the city gate.
- But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.
I'm grateful for your willingness to speak up. I hope you'll keep sharing your story. Just know that as difficult as your walk is right now, these moments may lighten up and flare up again. There is a community of women who have been in your shoes. Our experiences vary, but our advice comes from the heart.
Check out these resources:
National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches
Minority Coaches Association
NCAA Leadership Collective
Minority Coaches Association of Georgia
Missouri Minority Coaches Association