Clemson Football coach Dabo Swinney said he would not discipline a Clemson player for protesting the national anthem because they have that right. But he went on to say yesterday he disagrees with Kaepernick's actions because it creates divisiveness among people and convolutes the message.
I like Dabo Swinney. I really do. His coaching style is refreshing and energetic and his often comedic speeches really get through to the young men he coaches and mentors as head coach of the Clemson Tigers football team. The energy, the smile, the self-deprecating humor and "aww shucks" country boy demeanor are all positive attributes of a gifted young coach who came up in the "drill sergeant" era of discipline.
That's not to say it's Swinney is a disciplinary pushover. Not at all.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
His players seem to love him, and his 77-27 coaching record proves he gets results.
It's easy to discern how an individual with such a vibrant public persona can win over recruits, fans and students. Indeed, Swinney seems like a conscientious person from a public image perspective.
With the ongoing dialogue stemming from Colin Keapernick's kneeling protest of the national anthem due to America's ongoing problem with systematic racism, football minds who never would have weighed in on issues of the Black experience in America are being called upon to voice their opinions.
Recently, Swinney spoke out on the issue of First Amendment rights and racism in America and, as was to be expected from even a well-meaning country boy, Swinney totally missed the mark.
“I think everybody has the right to express himself in that regard," he said. "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.”
Two wrongs don't make it right?
However, when it comes to the America's refusal to properly exorcise it's racist demons, we're not talking about "one wrong", but countless. The oppressor's chain is composed of an untold number of links. Links that have been consistently voted upon, legislated and approved by a mainstream population that refuses to admit multi-generational, institutional racism binds the aspirations of millions of Americans.
“There’s more good than bad in this world," Swinney continued. "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."
(Photo Credit: USA Today)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is often mentioned as the best example of leadership and virtue. But he is often only cited as a counterbalance to the contemporary sociopolitical paradigm as it relates to race and class as if things have changed.
Like some messianic figure sacrificed in the name of racial reconciliation, King's legacy is yet another thing that is constantly appropriated, diluted and usurped to protect the feelings of people who refuse to reconcile their wrongs.
Racism did not die with King, which might be news to some. It just took a different form.
While I greatly appreciate the fact that Swinney understands the First Amendment rights of his players, his belief that the world has "changed" since the assassination of "peaceful" Dr. King is problematic.
A cursory glance at race relations in America, as well as information gleaned from established institutions, tells the tale.
No matter the intention, Swinney should be flagged on this one. Here's how Dr. King may have responded to Swinney, gleaned from a letter he wrong in April 1963 while sitting in a Birmingham jail.
"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
Now, dab on that!