Now-Steelers cornerback Brandon Boykin brought up an old topic when his initial remarks on being traded from the Eagles suggested that coach Chip Kelly wasn’t comfortable with black men.
But upon arriving at Steelers camp, Boykin tried to clarify his remarks, saying Kelly’s problem was more one of communication.
“When you’re a player, you want to be able to relate to your coach off the field,” Boykin said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “There were times he just didn’t talk to people. You would walk down the hallway, he wouldn’t say anything to you. I’m not saying he’s a racist in any way. . . .
“I felt a lot of guys in that locker room feel the same way. Of course, when you’re in the organization, you’re not going to voice your opinion. For me, I’ve always been a guy of honesty. Not trying to put anybody out in any way, but if you’re honest with me, I’ll be honest with you, and I felt like that honesty wasn’t there all the time.”
Boykin also said he was finished talking about Kelly, which is probably a good idea.
The idea of Kelly being racist, first broached by former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, seemed ludicrous on its face. But Boykin’s initial remarks that Kelly was “uncomfortable around men of our culture,” can still be true while not equalling racism.
The group of people Kelly seems most uncomfortable with is people. He’s approached the NFL with a style which borders on Moneyball, only more ruthless — treating players like commodities to be maximized or brokered, rather than individuals with feelings.
It’s easier to sell that at the high levels of the NCAA, where the football coach is practically a deity whose power can be absolute. But as teenagers grow into adults, they’re going to want to feel respected. And if Kelly can’t figure out a way to strike that balance, he may eventually find himself more comfortable in the college game.