Spring 2021 Magazine

OSU men's basketball coach Mike Boynton talks race, faith on new episode of Table Forty podcast

Race was the primary theme on Wednesday’s episode of the Table Forty podcast, part of the Sports Spectrum Podcast Network and hosted by seven-time MLB All-Star Matt Holliday and his wife Leslee.

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The Hollidays welcomed to the show Mike Boynton, the head coach of the men’s basketball team at Oklahoma State since 2017. Boynton is also a 38-year-old African-American man and was asked for his thoughts on George Floyd’s death and the persistence of racism in America.

“I think [George Floyd’s case] will really be different,” Boynton said on the podcast. “I really believe that in my heart, because of the universal acceptance almost. I think people are really willing to say, ‘Now is the time. We’ve accepted this too long.’ The list is getting longer by the years, and almost embarrassingly so for our country, that we haven’t figured out a way to deal with it.”

Boynton grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., played college basketball at South Carolina from 2000-2004 and majored in African-American Studies there.

“We’re not in segregation,” Boynton said, “but we’re still, because of the system being that way for so long, there are established norms and acceptances that people who benefited from it just aren’t willing to give up. We have to start with the acknowledgment of the problem.”

Boynton said the American system of slavery and the subsequent racist sentiments that have endured to this day manifest themselves in numerous ways, with police brutality perhaps being the most egregious. He even shared a personal story of his own run-in with police officers as a 12-year-old riding his bike around Brooklyn.

A police car cut him off on the sidewalk and three officers emerged wielding guns. They searched and questioned Boynton, but left when they realized the actual grocery store thief was in another part of town.

“But let’s just say I went to a store somewhere in Brooklyn and stole some potato chips and a can of soda,” Boynton theorized. “Do I really need to have three cops pull their guns out on me? But those are real experiences that don’t happen as often. And when we can accept that, I think that gives us an opportunity to really advance the conversation.”

He said he teaches his kids to love more and fear less, and all parents should do the same, regardless of race. Fear, he believes, is at the core of it all.

Leslee Holliday said believers should be the first to call out racism.

“The line has to be drawn in particularly Christian homes because we know better,” she said, “because of what the Bible says.”

As they often do on Table Forty, Matt and Leslee Holliday asked their guest about his own walk with the Lord.

“I really wasn’t into it as a young person,” Boynton admitted. “My grandmother, my dad’s mom, would make me go to church with her when I would stay at her house on the weekend. So I never wanted to go to grandma’s house. I didn’t enjoy it because I didn’t understand the value of the experience. I remember vividly falling asleep a couple of times in church.”

When Boynton moved away from home and entered college, he began to surround himself with faithful Christ-followers. God began to change his heart as he saw the world in a whole new way.

“I think my grandmother laid a foundation in me and [my spiritual mentor] kind of watered that seed a little bit as I got older,” Boynton said. “I wasn’t ready for it when my grandmother was trying to give it to me at 8 or 9. I just didn’t want to hear it. But as I got older, I was able to understand a little bit more of how important that part of your life is. Having someone to nurture that and really pour into me really helped.”

Even in his first head coaching role, at a major-conference school like Oklahoma State, Boynton isn’t afraid to share about his Savior on his Twitter page.

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