Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney has long been known as a talker.
As someone with a background in journalism, I’ve always appreciated that whenever he speaks, you’re sure to get some quality quotes.
From some of his most notable Dabo-isms like “All In” and “BYOG” to his epic rant in rebuttal to Steve Spurrier (If you know, you know), he’s a man that has never really been short of words.
However, when it matters more than ever, one of the top head football coaches in college football hasn’t been as vocal as some would like.
Swinney took his time to publicly address the current racism, social injustice and acts of police brutality plaguing this country. He stated during his Monday zoom call that he didn’t want to rush to make a statement and decided instead to sit back and listen first.
The thing is, I don’t feel like he did his homework very well. Despite the extra time for reflection, he still missed the mark in his Monday zoom call in which he allowed the media to ask questions after his opening statement.
Swinney is a man of faith and I will not knock him on that or ask him to push his religion to the side. But sometimes you have to take a step back and talk more like a football coach.
In my opinion, others around him in the college sports world approached and handled it far better than he did. You don’t even have to step foot off campus to find a coach who appeared to “get it” and released a statement that explicitly addressed the issues at hand.
Clemson men’s head basketball coach Brad Brownell spoke out and didn’t tiptoe around the issues. He could have made a generic statement about racism being bad (I mean….duh) but he took it a step further and denounced several of the issues that have pushed protesters into the streets for the last week.
Others around the sporting world joined the conversation and were also more precise than Dabo. They didn’t just take the easy route. After hearing and reading their comments or official statements, I felt like not only did they understand, they genuinely wanted to be sure their fellow staff members, players, alumni and fans knew their head coach was able to show empathy.
Perhaps Swinney should even sit back and take notes from his own former Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers coach Jeff Scott who seemed to be far more in touch.
Heck, even his 20-year-old quarterback spoke out days prior via twitter and delivered a stronger, more empathetic message than Swinney.
Not long after his Zoom press conference on Monday, Clemson was once again in the headlines roughly 24 hours later. This time it stemmed from a tweet from a former player stating a Clemson football assistant (who we later discovered was Danny Pearman) had used the N-word during a practice in 2017.
Matt Connolly’s story with The State circulated quickly and brought a sense of clarity as to what happened and the context in which the word was used. However, no fault to Connolly, it left readers with unanswered questions as neither Clemson, Athletic Director Dan Radakovich nor Dabo Swinney publicly addressed the matter.
In a follow up story, we learned a little more about why the story was brought to light three years later in the first place. But as far as comments from the above mentioned parties…..still crickets. Not a good look.
The timing to release this information—especially from a bystander that wasn’t directly involved nor is he still on the team at all—was certainly “convenient” giving the current climate of our country.
I’ll give credit to Pearman for swiftly addressing it once he was informed the story was out and picking up steam. And while he has reportedly apologized numerous times for the situation, it still doesn’t take away that it happened and he appears to have walked away without any punishment from Clemson or Swinney.
I understand Pearman didn’t use the term directly at a player or as a racial slur but it should not have been used at all from a coach. Furthermore, some sort of accountability should have been handed down. It doesn’t help this was “leaked” during such a troubling time but this was a moment for Swinney to step up and make a statement, literally and figuratively.
Players are held to a certain standard these days and coaches should be as well. Dabo is a talker and after his comments on the Colin Kapernick story, we know he is willing to talk about the tougher–perhaps even controversial– subjects….or so we thought.
Again, I won’t fault him for always taking the Biblical or Christian perspective but at the same time you have to reach a point where you alter your own viewpoint and understand words matter. This situation is far deeper than oppressed, angry and hurt people simply just forgiving others and walking away. It is not that simple and it is far bigger than that.
We know racism is bad but Swinney declined to specifically point out injustice and police brutality in his comments which are MAJOR concerns right now. Instead, he elected to preach about forgiveness and love. Truth be told, that is simply not what people wanted to hear. Specifically, it feels like to me he was side stepping the issue instead of calling a spade a spade like others have. He missed the opportunity to directly denounce systemic racism and the corrupt and broken justice system in our country.
To make matters worse, this 2017 incident has come to life again and if there was ever a time for Swinney to address it head on, take his licks and hopefully move on, it is NOW.
But we’ve yet to hear anything and honestly he’s doing himself no favors by waiting to address the issue from 2017 (if he plans on speaking on it at all). The first time the media is given the chance, someone is bound to ask and it is a fair question.
Dabo Swinney is (sometimes harshly) criticized for things he says and does but as one of THE premier college football head coaches, it comes with the territory. Now is not the time for Swinney to be listening and watching. He needs to speak up and put those words into action and start living what he preaches. After all, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)
I’ll be the first to admit that just a couple hours down the road, Will Muschamp has shown better leadership and support of his team as the head coach at South Carolina.
I think Bomani Jones hit the nail on the head with most recent comments about Swinney:
Sure, at the end of the day these folks are coaches not activist, politicians or members of the clergy. They aren’t “REQUIRED” to speak out on these issues. But there are other duties of the job that won’t necessarily be found in the job description.
And when you are Dabo Swinney–one of the faces of college football– and you’re also a natural talker and have been quite vocal about issues that impact players and society in general in the past, it’s only fair that you are pressed about other issues down the road–especially when they involve incidents on your team.
I find it ironic that in 2016, in regards to players taking a knee, he said the following:
“I think everybody has the right to express himself in that regard,” Swinney 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.”Dabo Swinney, 2016
…..but now his comments and lack of empathy towards the same issues of injustice and racism people are protesting today have made Swinney himself the distraction.
I’ll close with a final reminder: this isn’t an attack on Swinney or his character. His record as a coach speaks for its self and I think as a person and leader for the young men around him, his heart in is the right place. His mind however….perhaps it could use a revival.