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Penn State players aim to ‘change culture’

The slaying of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, last week in Minneapolis by an armed white police officer has triggered raw emotions throughout the country.

That includes within the Penn State football community.

James Franklin issued a passionate statement on Twitter over the weekend, saying, “I am gutted by this nation’s most recent tragedies and frustrated by our country’s inaction.”

His players, black and white, have followed suit.

Offensive guard C.J. Thorpe participated in Sunday’s rally in State College, and the entire team met virtually to provide comfort, unity and dialogue.

Quarterback Sean Clifford told a Zoom teleconference Wednesday from his home in Cincinnati that he hopes there’s a silver lining in the grief.

“What happened last week was terrible,”î he said. “But the country is finally learning what it’s like to be an African-American in our society. I really feel for them, and I’ve never been more proud to be their teammate, especially the guys who are speaking out. I hope we can change the culture. I hope a lot of good can come out of a terrible situation.î”

Clifford thinks the root of healing and understanding is love.î

“I love my teammates and their families,”î he said. “It all goes back to love. I don’t know what it’s like to be an African-American. I don’t have to deal with what they go through every day, and I’ve tried to express that to them. It’s obviously something pressing in our culture. Now that it’s been brought to light, people can’t ignore it.î”

Like Clifford, defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher is not yet back in State College. The NCAA has cleared players to return to their campuses, but the arrival date is up to the individual institution.

Mustipher, who resides in Owings Mills, Md., is eager to return, maybe next week.

“It would be nice to be with them during this hard time,”î he said. “It’s truly not a good time right now for us, but things are going to change. You want to feel that positive energy. You want to feel that love and connection you have as brothers.

“Individually, some guys might feel that they’re not safe. They’re not in a good place. If they were with us, we would be able to comfort them.î”

All the players watched the video of Thorpe addressing the crowd estimated at more than 1,000 that assembled peacefully on Allen Street on Sunday.

Mustipher called it beautiful.î

“C.J. is one of the veterans in the locker room who has been vocal,î” he said. “It goes to show you that if guys in locker rooms across this country can start this conversation and lead this conversation, I think change can happen everywhere.î”

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