Emotional Napier emphasizes support for players, respect for police after marches against brutality

Cajun Nation

Brad Kemp/ragincajuns.com

(The Daily Advertiser) – Three days after about 150 UL student-athletes marched in Lafayette to raise awareness about police brutality and social injustice, Ragin’ Cajuns football coach Billy Napier expressed regret about one part of the day’s events.

The march, organized by the leadership council of UL’s football team, made its way past the Cajundome and through the UL campus before ending at the Lafayette Police Department on University Avenue.

An emotional Napier spoke in a halting voice.

“I think Friday, you know, we found … you know, I think that we did something wrong,” he said. “I thought that we had a great unity walk.

“We got to a point in the walk where we headed in the direction where the police department was. And I didn’t anticipate our team, and they didn’t intend, to stop at that police department.”

But they did.

“I believe firmly in some of the things that we need to get resolved in our country,” Napier, who was one of the marchers, said of the issues the players were protesting. “And I think that some of these issues are extremely important. And I fully support my players on those things.

“But it’s also my job to be their leader. And there’s been probably three or four or five times – I can count ’em on my hand – where I laid my head down at night, and I felt like I failed my team.”

Napier said the walk “came together probably a little quicker than they wanted it to, truth be known.”

“They know that we love them. They know we care for ’em. They know that we have a very specific plan for them as people, as students, as players. And I told our team on Saturday … a couple things. The first thing I told them is that I am very proud that they have a voice and they stand up for the things they believe in.”

But a coach who on Monday seemed to be balancing respect for his players with respect for police also told them about the disappointment

“Everybody wants you to pick a side,” Napier said. “And I pick our players, and I pick our law enforcement.

“I’ve got great respect for ’em, and I know our team and their intentions, and I know their heart. And I hope that that’s authentic. I hope it’s genuine. I hope you see someone who’s owning what I thought was a mistake.

“And it was a mistake on a day where there were lots of great things that happened,” Napier added. “It was a special day, because it did create dialogue. It did create awareness. And there was purpose and great intentions behind it.”

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