BOZEMAN — With what happened to George Floyd and what has followed after, Montana State head football coach Jeff Choate knows he has a responsibility to establish the right culture.
“The most diverse group of young men in the entire state of Montana sit right underneath me in our locker room, and if we’re going to be great in between the white lines, it starts with trust, respect, mutual understanding -- those are the things we have to focus on," Choate said. "When we talk about building culture, that’s a part of our culture -- inclusiveness, respect, having those dialogues of what your experience is like.”
There are many factors that play into what happened, but Choate knows he is in a situation full of young men with very different upbringings.
“I can have a guy like Denver Krone who lives on a ranch outside of Choteau, Montana, respect, love and care for his brother in the locker room, Tyrel Thomas who is from Compton, California," said Choate. "This does not happen anywhere else. I tell our kids this all the time.”
One blanket statement, one post will not change anything. It’s the actions you take that will make a change, Choate said.
“Racism isn’t something we will wave a magic wand over and cure," Choate added. "I can say this and this is a statement and this is a comment we use a lot in our program, right now, we need to stop talking about and start being about it. Am I reaching across the line and saying, 'Hey, tell me about your experience, help me understand your experience'? That’s what this dialogue needs to be, and it needs to start in our locker room.”
Choate knows how he feels, but the students will be the ones to lead the change and the way forward.
“It’s going to be our students taking the lead with our love and support," he said. "I really don’t have a platform here. My job is to listen and be supportive."