An Illinois State University football coach, who served as the Redbirds’ offensive coordinator, departed from the football program last week, leaving a note on the door that said, “All Lives Matter to Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.”
Kurt Beathard told The Pantagraph he left the note before he parted ways with the team but declined to comment further about the circumstances surrounding his departure.
Sources told the publication that in the weeks leading up to Beathard’s leaving, a “Black Lives Matter” poster was put up in the Redbirds’ locker room and subsequently taken down. Asked about the removal of the poster from the locker room, Beathard denied any involvement, noting that he took down a different poster of unspecified content from the door to his office.
“That locker room crap is wrong. I took the sign down somebody put on my door. That’s it,” Beathard told The Pantagraph. “I didn’t take anything off that wasn’t put on my door. I wrote the message.”
The Illinois State University media relations department did not immediately return a request for comment and further details on Beathard’s departure.
Redbirds’ head coach Brock Spack announced in a Sept. 23 press release that Beathard was “no longer with the football program” and that receivers coach Ghaali Muhammad-Lankford and tight ends-fullbacks coach C.J. Irvin would serve as co-offensive coordinators.
“I’m excited for Ghaali and C.J. to take over co-offensive coordinator duties,” Spack said in the release. “They’ve been great additions to our staff over the past several years, and I have no doubts they will do a great job in their new role working together.”
The Pantagraph reported that, weeks before Beathard left the team, athletic director Larry Lyons used the phrase “All Redbird Lives Matter” in a video conference, with some players across various disciplines at Illinois State taking issue with the remarks, including by boycotting some workouts and taking part in an “Athletics March for Black Voices.”
Lyons later clarified his remarks, telling the Chicago Tribune that his intention when addressing around 460 athletes in a talk in which he discussed athletic department commitments to such issues as mental health training, as well as diversity and inclusion efforts, was to express support for all of them.
“I ended that by saying what my intention was: You all matter to me,” he said, adding that he believes the fallout from his remarks would lead to positive change.
“I think we’re going to a good place,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “We’re all trying to reach out and listen better. I need to listen better and we’re engaging with student-athletes about best ways to move forward. There’s some anger and I understand that. I wouldn’t want to diminish that. This is important. We’re going to move forward. We’re going to tackle this head on. Education is a big part of it, and that starts with me.”
Lyons later issued a list of commitments, including cultural diversity training for himself and staff.