Swinney responds to recent criticism, stories surrounding program

After what could go down as the most damaging week (off the field, at least) to the Clemson football program’s PR image, Dabo Swinney finally broke his silence to address a slew of issues in the aftermath of last Monday’s media zoom call.

Earlier this evening, Clemson Athletics released a 14-minute video from coach Swinney in which he circled back to readdress his comments and denounced the current unrest surrounding racism, injustice and police brutality in this country.

Coach Swinney also spoke on the controversial stories involving assistant coach Danny Pearman during a 2017 practice, assistant coach Mike Reed’s visit in 2013, and rumors that have circulated on social media.

As I stated in my last post, Swinney and other coaches are not politicians, activist, or members of the clergy, but they have a duty to their players, coaches, colleagues and fans to address certain situations–especially once their own program becomes part of the larger discussion.

“As a coach and as a team, we will do our part to create positive change against racism of any kind, social injustice and police brutality.”

Clemson HEad coach Dabo swinney

We’re just a football program and I’m just a football coach, but Clemson has been a leader on and off the field for the past decade, and we will continue to be a leader and a light for many. We are a unified football team and we will work to unify others by how we serve, by how we play the game and by how we do our jobs as a staff.

We have always had great leadership within our program and, man, this team is no different. It has been incredible to see this brilliant group of young people lead right now, and [I’m] so proud of them. This group of leaders on this team, they are ready to lead the way to being a part of the solution for this country.

I stand with my players and I will help them any way I can to unify people and help create positive change.

Dabo Swinney

As Swinney himself stated, some of the stories that recently were brought to light were false. However, Swinney owed it to himself to set the record straight and not only defend his character but the integrity of the program as a whole.

Clemson Assistant Head Coach/Tight Ends & Special Teams Coordinator Danny Pearman (Photo: IMAGN)

Swinney on Danny Pearman Incident:

“First of all, anybody who has been in our program knows there are two words in particular I don’t want to hear,” Swinney said. “One is the n-word and the other is GD. I would fire a coach immediately if he called a player the n-word. That absolutely did not happen.”

“A story broke this week. And the story was not in context. But what happened was we had I didn’t know anything about it. It was a coach and his player, Coach Pearman and DJ off doing a drill and a part of the field wasn’t in front of the whole team or anything like that. And Coach Pearman was correcting DJ to do the right thing…And DJ, you know, just kind of, you know, said something he probably shouldn’t have said and he said, you know, ‘I blocked the wrong f’ing n-word.’

“And Coach Pearman, you know, thought he was saying to him and he’s mad and he reacted. And he basically, in correcting him repeated to say the phrase and he said, We don’t say we blocked the wrong F and N word. And he repeated, and he shouldn’t have done it. There’s no excuse for even saying that. It doesn’t matter what the context is, but there is a big difference.”

On allegations Swinney used N-word during team meeting

Swinney also responded to another former Clemson player’s tweet in which he accused Swinney of using the N-word when talking to his players about music in the locker room during a visit from eventual defensive assistant coach Mike Reed.

“I was actually hiring Mike Reed and we were down there by the locker room and there was music blaring and literally every other word was the N-word. It was disappointing and I was embarrassed especially being with coach Reed and walking him around,” Swinney said. “What was said this week was absolutely false. In fact, the player that was playing the music called me this week and said [“coach this is crazy, this is an absolute lie and I said, yeah, I know,”]. So I stood before the team and said guys I don’t want to hear that word. I’m here walking a coach around and I hear the N-word over and over. Never did I repeat that word,” Swinney said.

On telling players not to participate in 2016 Sikes Hall Sit-In

“We had players participate in the Sikes Sit-In. I would never tell someone they could not participate in something they believe in or just exercise their basic rights,” Swinney said. “I consulted with my staff and the only thing I said was that if you are going to participate, make sure you know what you are signing up for. Make sure you know what the agenda and the message is. Because you are not going to be Johnny Joe the student, go over there and just blend in. If you go, you need to be prepared to be on the news, be on ESPN and so forth because of who you are. So just make sure it is something that you know what you are getting involved in,” Swinney said during the recorded video message.

On the “Football Matters” T-Shirt

“I had a T-shirt on and someone asked to take a picture with me. It’s a shirt I’ve had for a couple of years that was given to pretty much every coach by the National Football Foundation. (Football Matters) has been their thing since like 2014,” Swinney said. “Any insinuation that I was trying to mock the Black Lives Matter Movement is just an attack on my character and is really sad. I wholeheartedly support Black Lives Matter. In fact, I don’t think that is adequate enough. I think Black Lives Matter significantly and equally. God loves us all and none of us are better than anyone else. In God’s eyes we’re all first-team, we’re all five-stars with a lifetime contract.”

-Dabo Swinney’
Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney talks with referee during the fourth quarter of the National Championship game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans Monday, January 13, 2020. Clemson Lsu Football Cfp National Championship New Orleans. (Photo: Ken Ruinard)

Swinney said he has always deeply loved his players and this past week has hurt.

“It has been hurtful to see the pain in my players and hear it in their voices. I know they are hurting and they have pain for what is going on in this country. It is also hurtful to see our program be attacked. But one thing I know is God never says oops, he only says opps. We have the opportunity to grow, to learn, to listen, to get better and to get stronger. And that’s what we’ll do.”

I’m a fair man. Just a few days ago I laid out a lengthy call to Swinney to speak up. He did that tonight so now it’s only right that I, too, circle back and acknowledge that he’s tried to make it right and clear the air.

Swinney and Clemson University as a whole has taken a beating this week but he answered the call with class and dignity. Everyone won’t be satisfied with tonight’s video message and it is fair to say this should have come much sooner.

Swinney didn’t shy away from his Christian principles but he showed more empathy, spoke concisely and did far better than a week ago addressing the issues at hand—both nationally and within his program.

This time, the wait seems to have paid off. He got it right this time.