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OPEN DIALOGUE: As the son of a cop, Calumet's Rick Good fully supports racial injustice protests
OPEN DIALOGUE

OPEN DIALOGUE: As the son of a cop, Calumet's Rick Good fully supports racial injustice protests

Rick Good is preparing for his fourth season as the football coach at Calumet. As the son of a police officer, he has an unwavering support for law enforcement but also explains why he can't turn a blind eye to racial injustice in America as told to James Boyd:

I'm in total 100% agreement with the statement "Black lives matter." For the entire history of this country, that idea just hasn't been at the forefront. Based on what I've read, about 1/8th of people in this country are African American or identify themselves as Black. As a coach, if I were to ignore the feelings and ideas of 1/8th of my team, I wouldn't have a job anymore. I wouldn't have that platform to do what I love.

Imagine if nurses or frontline workers got rid of compassion for 1/8th of their patients?

So, when people say, "Black lives matter," I fully support it. Anyone who has a caveat to that or a "Yeah, but" to that, then they really aren't aware of what's going on in this country right now. Maybe they're blissfully unaware or systematically unaware, but to have that lack of awareness to say that the phrase "Black lives matter" is not valid or applicable, I think it's silly. I think anyone who does that is doing more damage than they may realize.

Of course there are people who going to say "all lives matter," and when you take the political context out of it, I would think it's a true statement. I would hope that as a white man, my life matters, but historically speaking, it has. Individualistically, maybe my life hasn't mattered to someone, but systematically my life has always mattered, and the rules of the game have been set up for someone like myself to succeed much easier.

On an altruistic level, the response that "all lives matter" is clearly true. But in reality that isn't being shown. For hundreds of years in this country, there is undeniable evidence that Black lives have not mattered, and that needs to change. We all deserve each other's best effort.

As the son of a police officer, that's how I was raised. That's what my father, who served for 35 years, instilled in me. My mother did the same.

But what that officer did to George Floyd, that wasn't the best he could have done. And it just shows how technology and video straight from our iPhones has the ability to shed a powerful light on the atrocities that go on in this country. To look at someone that is having their last moments filmed, and it could have been prevented, I think most of America can look at that and decide that that's murder. This wasn't manslaughter or anything else.

That was murder.

If you want to take legalese into the situation, there was willful intent to kill, and we need to hold our police officers to a higher standard. I've always said that if I'm on an airplane, I don't want the pilot that finished last in their class. If I'm on the operating table, I don't want the guy that got Cs in medical school. So, I think it's time that we start to hold public and civil servants to a higher standard.

I feel like I have a unique perspective since I grew up with a dad who happened to be a police officer. It wasn't who he was. It wasn't what he identified as. He didn't flaunt it around in South Holland. Actually, he prefers to not have many people know because to some people he is viewed as the enemy.

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When officers abuse their power, it makes it harder on everyone in the force, including my dad. And that definitely hits home. I know for a fact my father would have never ever done what the police officers in Minneapolis did to George Floyd or what the police officers did to Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta or any other situations like this.

He would never do something like that, but to think that there are police officers out there that will, it's infuriating, and it has to change.

One way to do that is to get back to servant leadership. That's what I learned from my father — that in order to be a good leader you have to be willing to serve. That's how I approach coaching and the way I interact with my student-athletes. My dad is the true definition of a servant leader, and it's been awesome to have him on my staff as the defensive line coach. To most people, he's just Rich. But the kids on the team have nicknamed him "OG," which is short for "Original Good."

He lets all of our players know that he is unabashedly a police officer, and we have another white police officer on our staff, as well. But together, they've helped our kids realize that there are police officers out here who care about them and love them.

I know that my players at Calumet have a different upbringing than I had and have experienced many things I never will. So, I would never say I understand what it's like for them, especially since most of them are Black or kids of color. But instead of trying to pretend like I fully get it, I try to use it as an opportunity for us to grow on both sides, so we can bridge that cultural gap.

I do think that white privilege is real, although I don't know if white and privilege need to be the two words that are put together. But I do feel like there is a cloak that I get to wear that some of my players don't get to wear. And it's not to say that everything has always been easy for me and my family. My dad worked 60-70 hours a week and my mom worked 50-60 hours a week just to make sure we had food on the table, but it would be naive to say that white privilege still hasn't opened some doors for me.

The last few months, all of us have had time to reflect, and I think this might have been the perfect storm. There haven't been the usual amount of distractions in our lives because of COVID-19, so we've all been able to really think and process. I think that's why we're seeing all of this activism and protesting as a result. If people continue to put their energy toward making a positive impact and demanding change, I think this could be one of those inflection points in history that gets talked about for centuries.

I didn't anticipate that these protests would happen, but looking back on it, it makes sense. Everything we're seeing, it's just hundreds of years of frustration finally boiling over. So, what better time than now to try to end the inequality that Black people and people of color have had to deal with for far too long?

Ever since school let out, I've been having Zoom meetings with my players about football and life in general. But after George Floyd was killed, I think the most important hour of my week has been just catching up with my kids and letting them express themselves and how they're feeling. I've quite honestly been surprised by their calmness and thoughtfulness about everything that's going on. 

For the few years I've been at Calumet, we've never shied away from openly speaking about race, and we will continue to make that one of the pillars of our program. Inclusion and diversity and this type of dialogue has to be at the core of what we do. Even if it's uncomfortable, we have to talk about it because this is our reality.

Black people and people of color are not treated equally in this country, and ultimately you have to stand up for what's right. There is no sliding scale or middle ground or sideline you can be on when it comes to racism. It's not enough to not be racist. You have to be anti-racist. And I'm not perfect myself. I have struggled personally with being complicit, but at what point as a human being do you realize that what you're seeing is wrong?

If we're going to take the next step in our society, we need to stop pretending that the only racism is overt racism and name calling. And really, as white people, we have to speak up even when it's just a bunch of white people — and Black people and people of color aren't around to defend themselves. It's gotta be that way, or this stuff will just continue.

I've been reflecting a lot, and for the first time in my life, I've realized that there is no other option. Whether it's in football or just everyday interactions, I have to use my voice, and I have to take action.

We all do.

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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.

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