HOOVER, Ala. — When Leonard Fournette posted a photo of himself wearing an Alton Sterling shirt last week, he received an outpouring of support, backlash and indifference.
“Wear a FREE OJ shirt as far as I care,” one response said, “just give me TD’s.”
His role as a social-justice advocate is not yet on the level of his role as an All-American football player, but Fournette — a rising junior at LSU who is expected to be the first running back taken in next year’s NFL draft — wants to shift that balance.
“I figured, you know, I have a voice,” Fournette said Thursday morning at SEC Media Days. “My whole meaning toward that was just pray until change come. That’s not just in (Baton Rouge). That’s everywhere in the world.”
Fournette claimed he “didn’t pay attention” to the comments on his post, which was a controversial show of support for a man who was shot and killed by Baton Rouge police on July 5.
“It’s always good to send a message,” he said. “It’s not just that incident, but any good thing you can do to help the world become a better world and better place, I would love to do that.”
Coach Les Miles used the first part of his lengthy opening statement to address the aftermath of the Sterling shooting, saying that the Tigers staff held “several meetings,” included two that included prominent players and one that included the whole team.
Fournette felt Miles did a “great job” bringing the team together and creating an open dialogue.
“He’s trying to understand us,” Fournette said. “I think he handled that well.”
Fournette said he doesn’t spend much time outside (“I’m always inside or at practice”), but he is “most definitely” being more cautious after the Sterling shooting and the police shooting of Philandro Castille in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
“Just growing up, that’s how it was in New Orleans,” Fournette said. “Just keep your head on a swivel, man, and the main thing is to stay prayed up, each and every day.”
One reporter asked Fournette about a jersey he auctioned off to aid flood relief last season, perhaps his first publicized moment as an advocate for others.
“With Katrina, we really didn’t get any help in New Orleans,” Fournette said. “So I figured like, why not be that difference maker in your generation? Young kids look up to players in college, especially where I’m from in New Orleans, so why not be that generational, ‘Stop all the things that are going on?'”