Notre Dame football hopes to inspire change after peaceful gathering on Juneteenth

Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 6:30 PM EDT
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On Friday, Notre Dame celebrated Juneteenth at the Irish Green followed by a walk around campus to signify unity. The event was organized by Fighting Irish defensive end Daelin Hayes who says many people don’t understand what it’s like to grow up as a black man in the United States.

"There are a large amount of people, and I would argue, a majority of our campus, faculty and stiffeners included, that are just not educated," Hayes said. "They don’t know what they don’t know."

Hayes says it’s okay to not know, but to then get informed. Head coach Brian Kelly admits he had no idea what Juneteenth was before doing some research. Kelly says it’s easy to talk about change, but says a significant change requires a spirit and energy like no other.

"I will continue to open my ears and my eyes, and continue to educate myself to the real cause that we have to keep championing every single day," Kelly said.

Hayes says the community needs more black leaders to show anything is possible.

"Notre Dame can not just be an ideal," Hayes said. "It can’t be something that our community looks at and says, ‘Wow, that’s great. But it’s never going to be for me.’ To hell with that."

Hayes and offensive lineman Max Siegel believe a start to this change would be requiring a mandated cultural competency course for all incoming freshman.

"I think this would be an amazing first step to show that Notre Dame is creating an inclusive campus for all that come," Siegel said.

For all who came to campus on Friday, Hayes gave them three points to live by to start some positive change.

"It comes by one, a commitment to your community; two, a commitment to diversifying your perspective and diversifying our education; and three, my personal favorite, is our accountability within our community," Hayes said. "I promise you, if we commit to these three things, we can all look each other in the eye and we left Notre Dame better than when we found it."

Notre Dame estimates around 1,500 people attended today’s peaceful gathering, and they hope it inspired many more.

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