‘It is not an overnight thing’: Feron Hunt Discusses the Possibility of Sitting Out Season to Focus on Social Justice Issues
SMU junior forward Feron Hunt spent Wednesday night watching the Milwaukee Bucks stage a walkout of the NBA playoffs. The next day, he helped orchestrate SMU’s largest student-athlete protest in light of Jacob Blake’s shooting in Wisconsin.
It wasn’t something that he had to think much about; it just seemed to naturally happen.
As for Hunt’s Twitter post on Thursday night, that was authentic emotion too.
“I may not play basketball this year with everything going on in the world,” Hunt punched out on the social media app. “I want to be a part of the change to end racism.”
And as Hunt caught his breath on Friday afternoon, intermittently thanking protesters for attending, he reflected on his words that prompted many to speculate about the SMU junior’s future in basketball. He landed on resolve as his response.
“Yes, I am [really thinking about not playing this season],” Hunt said to The Daily Campus. “That tweet was meant to put people on notice. If I could change racism and social injustice in the world, and had to put basketball down, I would do that. I feel like that speaks more volumes than playing basketball.”
Hunt’s comments came at a time when many prominent professional athletes have openly mused about the prospects of stepping away from sports to focus on social justice issues. As the nation reckons with police brutality and systemic inequality, college athletes and professionals have both publicly and inwardly weighed the statement it would make not to play.
Hunt, however, was the first SMU student-athlete to do so and is likely not the last.
Further context in Hunt’s case is important. The Desoto product comes at the discussion from the perspective of a player hopeful to have a professional career as early as next year — he entered his named in the NBA Draft last spring before returning to SMU. Presumably, taking a year away from basketball will delay or entirely alter that trajectory.
Hunt, however, said basketball will not be what drives this decision. Instead, it will be if the 6-foot-8 stretch forward sees change in the landscape of America’s race relations.
“If we keep seeing what we are seeing in America right now… unarmed Black men. I mean whatever happened to just tasing someone? You have three officers and one man. One man can’t beat three officers,” Hunt said, recounting with emotion the Jacob Blake video.
Still, Hunt acknowledges sitting out is not is first option. He would like to play and also feels playing could have more power than boycotting. To play, though, he wants SMU to have something on display that brings to light social justice issues. Internal discussions on the team will likely determine what that exactly looks like.
SMU men’s basketball was the first program in the wake of the George Floyd murder in June to designate Nov. 3, Election Day, as a mandatory day off. The rest of the NCAA soon followed.
“I’m not too much into the boycotting thing. I feel like protesting was better. I [also] think me playing basketball will help send a bigger message than me not playing,” Hunt said. “Me wearing my Black Lives Matter shirt before the game. Putting Black Lives Matter on the court, all the things we are [talking about].”
It is not out of the question to think Hunt, a key piece in SMU’s program, will not make this decision alone. He refrained, though, from saying any of his teammates would follow in his footsteps if he opted out of 2020. As he puts it, “every man has their own decision to make.”
He talks frequently with players on other teams, like the University of Houston, to discuss these issues at length. The team dynamics with head coach Tim Jankovich, he said, were strong.
SMU did not hold practice last week, along with Houston, in light of the Blake shooting. The team did resume activities this week.
“It is not an overnight thing. It is not like the world will change overnight and racism will end. You take it as it comes. You can’t one day say you are going to play and the next day say you are not going to play,” Hunt said.
“As of right now, I am considering that. But the team comes first, and I will be at practice. I still go to practice and just try to do other things to put people on notice,” he finished.