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BYU Football Players, Coaches Share What Juneteenth Means To Them

BYU running back Tyler Allgeier (Courtesy of BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – What does the newest federal holiday, Juneteenth, mean to the BYU football program?

BYU football players and head coach Kalani Sitake shared their feelings with KSL Sports on the holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

The men we interviewed highlight the improved diversity within the BYU football program. Kalani Sitake is the first-ever Tongan head coach in college football. Jaren Hall is the first Black-American to start at QB for BYU. And Tyler Allgeier is a Black, White, and Filipino running back who ran for more than 1,000 yards a season ago.

BYU QB Jaren Hall

Q: What does Juneteenth mean to you?

Hall: I mean, it’s part of my history, it’s part of my culture. And I’m proud of my past and learning about my ancestors of the past, you know, it means that the world has become a better place, right? All that there’s a lot of negativity out there from the past and things going on currently.

But I think that’s something to look at ,as you know, a pillar of light something to look forward to, there’s good in people. People aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, but there’s always something good, that’s gonna come later, you know, it just takes time. And, for me, I just look at that as a day of remembering that, you know, we’re all children of God. And, and there’s a lot of good to be done still. But there’s still a lot of good out there. You know, so live your life the best you can, and you love everybody around you.

Q: Can you speak to all the different walks of life, cultures, and religions that are currently part of the BYU football program?

Hall: That’s what makes it great. You know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is very welcoming all people; faiths and cultures, they always have been. So understanding that it’s no different for any of the sports teams, you’re gonna have people from every walk of life, you know, so that’s what I love about being here. You know there’s heavy presence of the Church, but, you know, everything that the Church teaches is to be a good person, to love your neighbor, to love the Lord. And that’s what I think everybody has in common, you know, so I don’t think there’s any controversy there. I don’t think you know, there’s anything wrong with that. And so we have good people here, regardless of their their backgrounds.

RB Tyler Allgeier

Q: What can people in the community do to make everyone from all cultures feel more comfortable?

Allgeier: “It’s kind of like a me thing, but you know, obviously, I just feel like there’s a lot of staring. A lot of staring. Whether it’s ‘oh, he’s on the football team’ or not. But like, obviously, because I can be the only one walking in a crowd and literally the only color guy or a minority there. Honestly, just saying hi, or whatever. Instead of just like that mean mug stare, because you know, in California you do that’s a fade on sight. But obviously, a lot of people are different. There’s a lot of people that actually say hi, and that’s what I really like about Utah. Obviously there’s some people, but the majority are really nice.

Q: What does Juneteenth mean to you?

Allgeier: “Honestly, it’s a reminder that obviously there’s a lot of injustices still coming. But you know,  obviously that was the start of a new beginning. Like I said, there’s a lot of injustices still coming, but you know, we still have to push forward and strive for equality.”

Head Coach Kalani Sitake

Q: What does the BYU football program look to do to amplify voices of minority athletes/coaches?

Sitake: Well, the simplest thing is just look at what they want to do individually and as a team. The “Love One Another” campaign and ‘We Are One’ last year was special. But I think it’s important for us as coaches.

I’m really thankful for our administration, and upper campus from our president, to our vice president to our athletic director, on down.  Their commitment to helping people and allowing people to feel included, you know, that’s a big part of this movement is to help people feel loved.

But an important part of that is collaborating with the young people, and hearing their thoughts and even their frustrations and letting them air it out. And having communication. I think it’s important to talk to them about that. And it doesn’t always have to be with me, but the conversation shouldn’t be something that’s uncomfortable. The more we can try to you know, encourage others to communicate, good things can happen. And even if it’s even if it’s not agreeing, that’s okay. But as long as you keep talking, communicating with each other. If you don’t, then usually it’s replaced with negativity, right.

So, I mean, if your wife texts you in the morning at 8am, and you don’t answer back till 5pm, it’s not usually going to be a positive thing for you to understand. So imagine if there’s times where the players don’t feel comfortable to express their thoughts or frustrations, or concerns. I’m just thankful that at BYU, there’s always an open door policy and people are listening, from the administration, upper campus all the way down to athletic administration.

If you’re looking at it, our fan base is very loving and encouraging to our players. We have a high number of people from different backgrounds that feel really comfortable here, whether they’re part of the Church or not. They feel really comfortable here and love their time being here and at the school and they love the fan base. I think the more we can encourage, especially when the pandemic happened, no one was allowed to connect and communicate and really see each other face to face. Now we’re in a different time where that can really take place.

Our players felt the love when there wasn’t an ability to connect, you know, so imagine how it’s going to feel when we get to the stadium and we get to take the field against Arizona and Las Vegas, it can be a lot of fun, but I’m just really thankful for opportunities to learn and be in a minority myself just to be have others. Learn from my experience and I can learn from there. This is an opportunity for all of us to get better and learn and really love one another and try to follow Christ and be better disciples.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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