Greg Scruggs & Michael Lehan: A Discussion on the Black Lives Matter Movement
On this episode of Pro Mindset Podcast, Greggory Scruggs who is defensive line coach for the University of Cincinnati. He is a former Seahawks, Bears, and Patriots DL & TE and former client of podcast host and NFL Agent Craig Domann. Alongside Greg is Michael Lehan, who was Assistant Superintendent in the city of Minneapolis for the fifth largest school district in the state of Minnesota and former Browns and Dolphins CB and client of Craig’s. This episode is dedicated to the discussion of the Black Lives Matter movement and also the personal experiences and opinions of these two men. Craig starts off this discussion by asking where and when each of them were wronged by police or people of authority. Lehan starts off the conversation by explaining his background of being a black male who was adopted by white parents. He always felt a little out of place especially at school because he wouldn’t see many people who looked like him. He first felt discrimination when he was child at a barbershop. He went to get his haircut but the staff refused to cut his hair saying “we don’t cut hair like his.” He remembers feeling so uncomfortable and almost
ashamed because they wouldn’t cut his hair because he was different. Later in life he experienced a more overt form of racism when he was with his brother. A white man approached both of them and told them to “go back to Africa” and that they were not wanted here. As a young person, it is extremely difficult to take that statement and think anything else besides, we don’t belong or we are not appreciated or loved here. Greg then joins the conversation by telling a story from his childhood. He remembers being with another kid from his neighborhood and this kid used the N-word. When the mother of the child showed up instead of reprimanding the child, she used the word again. Greg describes the amount of hate in the tone of her voice when she said it -- that hate stuck with him. Greg goes on to tell stories of racial profiling against him and how it just makes him feel afraid for his loved ones and himself.
The conversation transitions to football and if the NFL has done anything specifically to promote or incite racism. While both men speak about how they have not seen in the NFL any first-hand racism, they do feel like the NFL system is a cut throat industry that as a black man conditions you to believe that you are less than others. They elaborate further by explaining that in the NFL you can be cut at any time and teams have no issue dropping players if they need or want to. In the life of a black man, you
constantly feel like you are not enough and they have no support so when the team you work for just cuts you suddenly, it feels like you are once again being cast aside and not valued to what you feel like you should be valued at. Craig then relates this feeling to the case of Rishard Brooks. The feeling that Mr. Brooks had was pure panic. The trauma that black people have with police in our society creates a fight or flight response causing some people to panic and try to run. This still does not put police in the right to kill someone for running, but it does explain why a person of color who is innocent would run from the police. It is one of the only responses that people of color feel will save their lives in that moment. Both Greg and Michael agreed with this sentiment and Greg elaborated saying, “What happened with Rayshawn books, all that is, is the fear of man. Now there's trauma induced fear of saying one too many times. I have seen this. I know if I allow myself to come at the hands of these men, something bad may happen. That's what people miss.” Both Greg and Michael described this feeling that they have when they have encounters with police as “protective mode.” They both agreed that this scenario for them could be life or death so in order to live they must protect themselves at all costs, which could mean running from police.
While we all agree that there are problems with the policing structure, all three men agreed that not all policemen are bad. Greg talks about how his Aunt was a Sergeant and he has friends who are cops. It is more that he thinks that more often than not, black men are on the wrong side of the bullet. Greg says, “I'm not one to sit here and cast every cop as a bad cop. My Aunt was a Sergeant for the Cincinnati police department. I'm really great friends with other cops. I took my kids to the Cincinnati Police Academy to have dialogue and interaction with cops.” The conversation moves to how do we change the policing structure and what else needs to be changed.
Lehan starts off by saying that white people need to step out of their comfort zone in order to help people of color and to help teach the country. Both Greg and Lehan feel that they have to explain themselves when they are trying to stand up for their rights. White people should do a better job or learn and understand why people of color are fighting and what they are fighting for. Greg goes on to talk about how there was only one book in a bookstore on black history that was made by a black person. He feels like this is a perfect example of how black people are made to feel inferior. It is frustrating for a person of color to not feel acknowledged about their plight and yet the plight of the black race is described and taught by a white person. It truly does not make sense. Both men go on to discuss affirmative action and how it takes away from the accomplishments of people of color. It's a lose lose because you can fail or you can succeed and be criticized or delegitimized because of the color of your skin.
Finally, Craig brings up Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He asks what still needs to be changed in order to accomplish this dream? Michael talks about our legal, criminal, and school systems needing to be altered. The changes that need to be made are not small. There needs to be a revamp of how we operate in America in order to really succeed in our goal of racial equality. While there have been strides to solving racial inequality, there is still not enough being done to make Martin Luther King's dream come true. Black people still feel marginalized and it is crazy to think
that we do not have more work to do. Gregg says, “We still feel this way. After all this time, we still have discrimination and segregation. But after all this time, we still are poor, broke and marginalized amongst all of this prosperity. We still feel like we don't even belong or are wanted here.”
This powerful discussion ends with Michael explaining that we must make sure that George Floyd’s death must not be in vain. We must make sure that this will not be a black pride spirit week. We must make sure that change is made so that a death like George Floyd’s will never happen again. Thank you so much to Michael Lehan and Greg Scruggs for coming on to the podcast and sharing the experiences and wisdom with us. We hope that everyone listening can learn and grow from this.