Kirk Herbstreit Explains His Powerful, Teary-Eyed Message About Racial Injustice

"I just decided these are challenging conversations and I am going to speak from my heart. So I did."

Kirk Herbstreit talking
Kirk Herbstreit at ESPN College Game Day during a game between Georgia Bulldogs and LSU Tigers at Mercedes Benz Stadium on December 7, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

With the college football season kicking off in some parts of the country this weekend, it’s no surprise that ESPN’s College GameDay did a preview show on Saturday morning. What might have been a surprise was analyst Kirk Herbstreit’s emotional message towards the end of the show, during a roundtable on racial injustice in the United States.

Herbstreit spoke about how white people can’t truly relate to the plight of the Black community, but also emphasized that they have to listen and feel the same outrage in order for things to change, citing a conversation with Stanford head coach David Shaw as an inspiration:

If you’ve listened — the word empathy and compassion over these last four months — how do you listen to these stories and not feel pain and not want to help?

Kirk Hebstreit

Following the teary monologue, which also left GameDay host Maria Taylor in tears, Herbstreit spoke to The Athletic about the moment, which he had not planned beforehand. He did say that he decided to speak from the heart, rather than doing the safer choice of praising the panel for talking about the issues:

I literally had no idea if I was going to go left or right. Was I just going to just kind of clean up the segment and say, ‘This is great that we’re talking about the issues,’ or do I go down a path where I don’t know what I’m going to say and just speak from my heart? And I chose the latter. I just decided these are challenging conversations and I am going to speak from my heart.

Kirk Hebstreit

Taylor also spoke to The Athletic, saying that was the first time she had ever cried live on the air, but also added that she was grateful for Herbstreit’s message:

We have these conversations all the time and I appreciate him and I love him and vice versa. I know it is mutual. But to hear him say that on behalf of the entire community was overwhelming for me.

Maria Taylor

With the college football season already struggling to get off the ground due to the coronavirus pandemic and also with the protests against racial injustice around the country still going, Herbstreit’s message of open and honest communication was a great way to start the season off; not by ignoring the world around it, but by bringing it into the conversation.

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