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MSU's Tom Izzo: I was 'ignorant' on meaning of Colin Kaepernick's protest

The Detroit News

There's a scene at the end of "Rocky IV," where Rocky Balboa, victorious against the mighty Ivan Drago, tells the once-hostile Soviet Union crowd, "If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!"

Well, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo is living proof that no matter what your age, you can change.

Izzo, appearing on 97.1 The Ticket on Tuesday, told morning-show hosts Mike Stone and Jamie Samuelsen that when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement of kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality, he didn't agree with it.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.

Izzo said his opinions have changed in recent weeks, amid the "Black Lives Matter" protests spurred by the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

"Listen, I learn lessons, too. And I’m still learning at this age," Izzo told Stone and Samuelsen. "I talked to all those people to try to get a good feel. And what I realized is, I wasn’t real happy with the Colin Kaepernick thing when it happened. I guess like a lot of people I looked at it as, what are we doing? The flag, all this stuff. And yet, as I look back on it, how ignorant am I? Because that was a peaceful protest."

Izzo said he was "sickened" watching the video of Floyd's murder, which has led to massive protests in hundreds of cities across the country — some peaceful, some less so.

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"I feel like I spend a lot of time in the inner cities and around different people, and always felt like I had a good relationship. But when I saw what I saw with George Floyd, it sickened me. I said it and it did," Izzo said on 97.1. "It was real and it was disappointing, but it was disgusting. None of us know all the things that happen, but a human life is a human life and we’re treating it like it’s nothing.

"As Jud Heathcote, my old boss, used to say, 'There’s bad everything.' We’ve learned that society’s got bad people as police officers, bad people as presidents, bad people as teachers, administrators. Hell, we’ve learned that there’s bad clergy. Whoever thought there’d be a day when we’re questioning priests?

"But this is human life."