Mack Brown is not afraid to talk about race or privilege

Mack Brown, head football coach at UNC, opens up about growing up in the south (and what his parents did when they saw racist behavior), his growth when he started to realize his privilege, the patches the football team put on their jerseys in 2020, and why he’s not afraid to talk about race.

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Voiceover: Welcome to If You Only Knew, brought to you by The Diversity Movement, where Dr Debby Stroman talks race and diversity in sports with some of the most influential leaders at the intersection of athletics and racial equity.

Today’s guest is Mack Brown, head football coach at UNC. Today Coach Brown (or Coach Mack?) opens up about growing up in the south and what his parents did when they saw racism, his growth when he started to realize his privilege, the patches the football team put on their jerseys, and why he’s not afraid to talk about race. 

Here’s your host, UNC professor, entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, and advocate, Dr Debby Stroman.

Dr Debby Stroman:  If You Only Knew with Dr. Debby Stroman. I’m excited today. I have the opportunity to spend some time with coach Mack Brown. He is no doubt a legend to everybody in the Tarheel nation, and certainly he’s done some incredible things that make even his rivals have to respect him. So thank you for being here, coach.

Mack Brown:  Thank you, Dr. Stroman. I’m excited about our next hour.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Absolutely. So let’s start off. Tell me where it all started. Like where did you grow up? What brought you to sports at a young age?

Mack Brown:  Debbie, I was so lucky. I was raised in a small town in Tennessee, Cookeville, Tennessee. My grandfather was the love of my life.

He was the local high school football coach that the stadium now is named after he was the winningest high school football coach in middle Tennessee history at that time. And he became the superintendent of schools. He ran all the recreation programs in in the county. So I just worked for him.

I loved him. He taught me how to fish. My dad wouldn’t let me hunt. Cause each Friday I’d shoot somebody. I think so I never got the hunt, but I ran all the little league and Babe Ruth league baseball programs and I worked on all the fields and then my granddad and I would go down and stay at the little trailer at  the lake and we’d fish at night.

We’d fish the next morning go back to work. And he actually integrated the schools in our community when I was really, really young. So I was so fortunate with race, that race was not an issue in my life. And he, I realized now he took a lot of criticism.  But I remember going with little league baseball team and my dad was driving and we stopped and dad walked in and I remembered the signs, the, the white bathrooms and the colored bathrooms.

And dad walked back out and we were all really hungry and I was probably 10 or something. And dad said, we’re not going to eat here. And we left. So a couple of years later, I said, why didn’t we eat there? And he said, they wouldn’t let the kids of color eat. He said, I said, well, why didn’t you bring some stuff out?

He said, I wasn’t going to eat those people’s food. So I thought I was really lucky that I was taught at a very young age, that people are people and the color of your skin shouldn’t matter. So I was really, really blessed and I want to be a great grandfather to my grandkids because my granddad was so good to me.

Full Episode Transcript

If You Only Knew…with Dr. Debby Stroman is edited and produced by Earfluence, and brought to you by The Diversity Movement.

Intro and outro music provided by Soteria Shepperson.

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