UCLA links: Jim Mora on the protests in the NFL

UCLA Bruins head coach Jim Mora walks back toward the lock room at half time during a NCAA college football game against the Texas A&M Aggies at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

College football players remain in the locker room until the coin toss, shielding UCLA from the same controversy swallowing NFL players who kneel during the national anthem as a way to protest racial injustice.

Head coach Jim Mora was asked about the issue Monday during his weekly press conference, specifically whether he has discussed it with his team or if the players have approached him about possibly doing something during games. Here’s what he said, in full:

“No one’s mentioned anything to me and I haven’t heard much talk about it. It’s not really on our radar right now. We’re in the locker room and I’m sure everybody has their own opinion and their own take on it and I think it’s important to respect everybody’s opinion and everybody’s take and we try to do that at UCLA in a very educational way. We’re all about freedom of speech and freedom of expression but we’re also about respecting our country and respecting our military.

“My personal opinion is that kneeling when they’re playing the national anthem doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being disrespectful to the flag nor to the military. I think that people find ways to make statements. That’s what this country is about and has always been about and I think we have to respect each other. I know that our young men, if they were given that opportunity, would be very respectful.”

Members of the UCLA women’s soccer team took a knee during the national anthem prior to a game against Oregon State on Oct. 1. Head coach Amanda Cromwell told Pac-12 Networks after the game that the team met, decided to kneel prior to the anthem together and allow some players to continue kneeling if they chose.

“It’s about supporting the cause of racial justice and equality in the world,” Cromwell said.

The UCLA women’s soccer team has two coaches who served in the U.S. military: associate head coach Joshua S. Walters, Sr., who served 12 months as a First Lieutenant with Brigade S2 (Military Intelligence) of the Florida National Guard during Operation Enduring Freedom V in Bagram, Afghanistan, and assistant coach Jenny Bindon, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard.

“It’s an honor to coach this team and have these conversations because they’re really important to have,” Cromwell told Pac-12 Networks.

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UCLA football’s targeting problem

Hawaii wide receiver Kalakaua Timoteo, center, drops the ball and gets leveled by UCLA linebacker Josh Woods, left, and hit from behind by defensive back Mossi Johnson (21) at the goal line, Woods was penalized for targeting and ejected, during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. UCLA won 56-23. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Dalton Schultz hauled in a 3-yard pass from Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello and turned up field. Adarius Pickett didn’t waste any time to come in for the tackle. With the UCLA safety bearing down, the Stanford tight end ducked his head to prepare for impact. What likely would have been a clean hit to the chest sent Pickett to the UCLA locker room for a targeting in the first quarter.

Nearly two weeks later, Pickett is still baffled by the play.

“A guy that’s 6-6, he lowers his head and he hits my head and I’m aiming, as you can see, for his midsection and I get kicked out of the game for that,” Pickett said Tuesday during UCLA’s bye week. “I just don’t understand that at all.”

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The targeting call has been a particularly sore spot for the Bruins this year as they’ve lost four players in as many games due to the rule. The 11 other Pac-12 teams have lost three players to targeting combined. The policy designed to protect players has instead confused many about how to define a good football play. Continue reading “UCLA football’s targeting problem” »

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