NORMAN, Okla. — On a steamy Thursday morning, Oklahoma senior cornerback Jordan Thomas showed only small amounts of skin. Long back sleeves extended to his wrists. Black leggings went down to his ankles.
Thomas says that has been his typical practice attire, regardless of temperature, since spring 2015.
Back then, Oklahoma players began wearing black workout gear as a show of unity. That was the spring before Thomas’ sophomore season.
“I didn’t want it to die right there,” he said Thursday. “To this day, I still wear all black to make the statement that [racial discord] is not gonna go away and it’s not unheard of, and it’s very open and it’s very real in this world. To this day, I continue to wear it.”
In light of the protests that turned violent in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, Thomas opened up about his feelings.
“It’s painful to know and to see this is where our world still is today,” Thomas said. “I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for us to be one and and be unified. I don’t understand why it matters why I look the way I look and you look the way you look. I love everyone in this world, and I don’t understand why we can’t all do that. I don’t understand how you can dislike a person because of what they look like. What kind of logic is that? It’s sick and it’s twisted. ”
Thomas’ choice of attire isn’t a team-wide deal. In fact, he’s discouraged younger teammates from following suit.
“I was like, I don’t wear this for fun. I don’t come out here and sweat my life out because I want to look cool,” he said.
The players started wearing the attire in spring 2015 after a video surfaced showing members of an Oklahoma fraternity chanting racist themes. Given that incident, and others that have followed, Thomas said he’s willing to talk with anyone that will listen.
“This happens countrywide,” he said. “Granted, we made a little stand here and there, but it’s just like, if you really think about it, not many people ever really think about it or talk about it. It’s a soft subject, but it’s just like, what did we really do if we didn’t make a change? It’s kind of difficult trying to put ourselves out there and do something because of time management, actually trying to be great at something. We’re collectively just trying to invite equality over selfishness, if you will.”
Oklahoma defensive tackles coach Ruffin McNeill spent last season as Virginia’s defensive line coach. He said he feels for the town of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia in the aftermath of the protests.
“It’s a great city. Great people. Charlottesville. Great university and great people there,” he said. “I hate to see that go on. I’ve kept up with the staff there. I have a lot of friends – one of my best friends in the world is on that staff, Robert Anae, and his wife Liane. It’s tough to see and tough for the kids. A lot of times, events like that will unite everyone together and make it closer than before.”
Sooners return to practice after field trip
Oklahoma returned to the practice Thursday after a day off. On Wednesday, the team took an impromptu field trip to Top Golf in Oklahoma City.
“I think that was a great day for us. I think it was a good bonding time,” safety Will Johnson said. “A lot of us got to spend time with dudes we don’t ever really talk to much, so I think that was great for us. I think a lot of us need to stick to football instead of golf. I saw a lot of putts get missed, a lot of shots that whiffed the whole ball.”
The players didn’t know they would get the day off, but the coaching staff had it scheduled for some time.
“It gets hard because camp is longer than it’s ever been. It is a full week longer than it used to be,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We’ve gotta make sure we can get to the show healthy with guys feeling good.”
Quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t throw passes during practice on Thursday. The coaching staff decided to rest his arm. The other noticeable absences were middle linebacker Jon-Michael Terry, defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and wide receiver Jeff Badet.
Offensive coaches didn’t talk on Thursday, so no update on Badet’s status was given.
Terry has been limited by an undisclosed injury he suffered in the first week of practice. Because of Terry’s injury, freshman Kenneth Murray has taken most of the first-team snaps at middle linebacker.
Stoops said Gallimore is “nicked up.” He’s expected to return to practice by Monday.