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Dave & Dujanovic: Race relations in Utah from a Black coach’s perspective

Coach Kamaal S. Ahmad was featured in a viral video pleading with protesters in Salt Lake City not to loot a convenience store. He shared his perspective on being Black in Utah with Dave & Dujanovic last summer, and again on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Lee Lonsberry. Photo credit: Lee Benson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Black man whose intervention when a peaceful protest turned violent in downtown Salt Lake City went viral is sharing his perspective on race relations in the state as part of a special day of coverage on KSL NewsRadio. 

Several weeks later, we now know his name is Kamaal S. Ahmad. An assistant football coach at Weber State, he joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic Thursday. 

“That was not about George Floyd”

About his intervention in the Salt Lake City protests at the end of May, Kamaal S. Ahmad said he was disgusted by what he saw.

“That was not about George Floyd. That wasn’t about Black Lives Matter. . . Nothing peaceful about that crap, man,” said a university football coach in a video after leaving a riot in downtown Salt Lake City on May 30 that broke out  over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

 

Gov. Gary Herbert activated the National Guard, one of 14 governors across the nation to do so that day.

“The safe space we offered for today’s protest … is no longer safe for anybody,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said during the protests as she invoked a curfew lasting until 6 a.m. on June 1.

Weeks after that violent protest, Ahmad, a 14-year Utah resident, opened up about his experiences that day and his experiences as a Black Utahn. 

‘It’s not the police’ in Utah

“What keeps you here in Utah, and what is it that concerns you about race relations in Utah?” Debbie asked.

“It’s very ironic because what keeps me here is the great culture,” Ahmad said. “I love the culture here. I love the atmosphere. I love the people. I love Utah. And I really love the Salt Lake City area. My goodness, I fell in love with it 10 years ago. There’s no city like the Salt Lake City area. 

“But if you talk to many of the African-Americans here, it’s not the police. We don’t have police issues. It’s race relations, with coworkers, with other students. Those are the major issues here. It’s not the police. It’s our peers,” Ahmad said.

Recruiting out-of-state players

Ahmad is the Weber State Assistant Offensive Line Coach and begins his sixth season with the Wildcat program this year. He serves as Weber State’s Director of Football Operations and NFL Liaison. He played football in college at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and the University of Kentucky.

“As a football coach, where recruiting is such a huge part of your job, what were you hearing from players who you were recruiting that maybe had some concerns about coming to Utah, which is predominantly white?” Dave asked.

“You know what’s interesting, when you’re playing for someone’s college education, that doesn’t seem to be the biggest factor,” Ahmad said.

How Utah can do better

“You tweeted out that the treatment of the African-American athlete is one of the biggest challenges for many within the state of Utah. What do you mean by that and tell us how we can do better? How could I do better going forward as a parent or as a coach?” Debbie asked.

“The biggest stereotypes of African-Americans within this state, in my opinion, are athletes because that is who you see on TV every day,” Ahmad said. “There’s not really a large African-American community here. It’s one of the few large cities in the United States where you don’t have a solid African-American community that’s been there for decades. This is one of the few states where you don’t have that, so naturally you’re going to get some stereotypes that come up. 

“When I read the Oklahoma City newspapers. . . The Oklahoma City Thunder [NBA team] . . . when players talk about coming to Utah to play, it’s not good. I’m not talking about from a competitive standpoint. I’m talking about a racial — ‘Hey, this slur was said. It needs to be addressed.’

“When I first moved here, I tuned in to a certain radio station that I won’t name. Obviously not this one. They were mocking black athletes, the way they talk, the way they act. I’ve never heard that in my life until I moved here. In the South, you would not ever have said something like that. It was wide open here.

“I don’t think it was people who are racist or prejudice. It’s just they didn’t know any better. I truly believe that. This happened consistently, and I just stopped listening to it a few years ago. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

 

For more coverage of Race Relations in Utah on KSL, click here

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.