In the world tour of asking every sports figure about how they feel regarding the Kaepernick protest we arrive at Clemson University. At the South Carolina school, we hear from their head football coach Dabo Swinney as he offers his view on the protest and America’s social issues. After hearing what Dabo had to say I as a black parent would have a lot of reservations about sending my child to play for him.
Now let me begin by saying I don’t think that Swinney is a racist or has any ill intent but I do think that he is tone deaf to the state of affairs in our country. His 8-minute response to the question made wonder if the man has any meaningful relationships with African-Americans on his team or staff.
A lot of his views are in line with the people who have been calling into sports talk radio stations for the last 2 weeks. Here is how Dabo got things rolling “I think everybody has the right to express himself in that regard. But I don’t think it’s good to be a distraction to your team. I don’t think it’s good to use the team as a platform. I totally disagree with that. Not his protest. But I just think there’s a right way to do things. I don’t think two wrongs make a right. Never have, never will. I think it just creates more divisiveness, more division.”
First of all, to say two wrongs don’t make a right would imply that Kaepernick exercising his constitutional right to protest is a wrong. What’s wrong is that unarmed men and women can be killed and their murders can go unpunished. I am not sure what people think a right or wrong way to protest is. Kaepernick has created conversation on a subject that needs attention. The overall plight of Blacks in this country is something that people like to sweep under the rug. Somehow people who are vocal about this are seen as divisive because it makes others uncomfortable.
Dabo wasn’t done as he went on to give what he thought the state of America was and even going to reference Dr Martin Luther King stating “With Martin Luther King, I don’t know that there’s ever been a better man or better leader. To me, he changed the world. He changed the world through love in the face of hate. He changed the world through peace in the face of violence. He changed the world through education in the face of ignorance. And he changed the world through Jesus. Boy, that’s politically incorrect. That’s what he did. It’s amazing when we don’t learn from our past how you can repeat your mistakes.”
“I think the answer to our problems is exactly what they were for Martin Luther King when he changed the world. Love, peace, education, tolerance of others, Jesus,” Swinney said. “A lot of these things in this world were only a dream for Martin Luther King. Not a one-term, but a two-term African-American president. And this is a terrible country? There are interracial marriages. I go to a church that’s an interracial church. Those were only dreams for Martin Luther King. Black head coaches. Black quarterbacks. Quarterbacks at places like Georgia and Alabama and Clemson. For Martin Luther King, that was just a dream. Black CEOs, NBA owners, you name it. Unbelievable.
Now, does that mean that there’s not still problems? Yes. Where there’s people, whether they’re black, green, yellow, orange or white, there is going to be sin, greed, hate, jealousy, deceitfulness. There’s going to be that. That’s always going to be there. But attitude, work ethic, love, respect for others, that doesn’t know any color.”
One thing that will never cease to amaze me is people who like to reference Dr. King but obviously have not done any intense study of the man and his work. First of all if the only reference of a civil rights leader you have is King then maybe you need to visit some of those history classrooms on the Clemson campus. Also King didn’t dream of black quarterbacks he worked for equality among the races. Yes, we do have a black owner in the NBA and that is it. One owner out of all 4 major professional sports in America where each league has roughly 30 teams.
Now if the football coach would like to learn a little bit about Dr King here is a little excerpt from “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” “You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative”
Basically Swinney hit the old “hey you Black people are doing better now, be happy.” Even if that’s not what he meant that’s the tone of what he said. Maybe he should sit down with some of his players that are Black and attend a predominately white institution. Just ask them about the challenges they feel associated with that. How are their interactions with police officers who don’t know that they are Clemson football players? What are their experiences and the talks that their parents have with being pulled over by the police and the fear they feel? What were the conditions of their high school compared to the predominately white schools around them?
What Coach Swinney might find that his view of world may not be that closely in line with some of the people he sees every day. Because when you say things about activist who are trying to improve things like “some of these people need to move to another country.” You just end up sounding stupid. These people who are in protest don’t hate America they just want it to live up to its promise.
Keith B. Holt
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