Texas boosters, Greg McDermott and others in college sports are telling us who they are. I hope Black student-athletes listen

Shalise Manza Young
·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·5 min read

Part of the reason that the current generation of teenagers and young people are so effective at organizing marches or protests or even parties (when those are allowed again) is because they have grown up with social media.

They're on it all the time, between TikTok, Twitch, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, sending out and digesting thousands of images a week.

And this week alone, aspiring student-athletes are seeing these things on those apps and elsewhere:

  • University of Texas athletics boosters threatening to pull financial donations if the school doesn't make it crystal clear that "The Eyes of Texas," the school's antiquated fight song that has racist origins, will continue being sung by players and fans as per tradition

  • Creighton men's basketball head coach Greg McDermott admitting to using the never-heard-before and hopefully-never-ever-heard-again words "I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation,” supposedly for the first time ever, when addressing his players, half of whom are Black, during a recent loss

  • And this five-year-old video of a white Louisiana-Lafayette strength and conditioning coach, which was revived on Twitter this week. It shows the coach (now at Georgia Tech) literally walking on football players, all but two of them Black, as they do wall-sits with 45-pound plates, which is just a little too on the nose of how many NCAA programs see their student-athletes:

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If you're a Black student-athlete, or a non-Black student-athlete committed to fighting racism (thanks!), or even a parent of either, how the heck do you look at all this and think, "Yes! Let me toil for free for a place that doesn't care about my humanity!" or "Oh I'm definitely sending my kid there!"

(Now if you want to argue that the NCAA as an institution doesn't much care about the basic humanity of most of its student-athletes regardless of their race or gender or background, you won't get any pushback here.)

But there's a reason that KKK members wore hoods: so when they did their racist things they were hidden from their community.

If you're going to go out and just announce what you really think of Black people when they aren't performing for your entertainment, or performing in a way that you're happy with, or fighting against your belief that you own them because you donate money to the college they compete for, the rest of us can see it and react accordingly.

Athletes at all levels are starting to realize the power they have. Without Division I college athletes, there are no millionaire state-employee coaches. There are no games. There are no billion-dollar rights deals with television networks that help line the pockets of coaches, athletic directors and conference commissioners.

And if it's clear that the coaches and boosters who support you to your face don't believe you're entitled to feel comfortable and safe and protected at minimum, why should you continue to play for them?

You should not put up with this. Your children should not have to endure being simply tolerated because they might be able to help bring glory to an athletics program.

Of course, eliminating all of the programs with coaches or boosters who do little to hide their disdain for non-white people may not leave you with many options. Just last year, Iowa paid Chris Doyle, one of its strength and conditioning coaches, $1.1 million to leave the program after numerous Black players accused Doyle of racism. (Then Urban Meyer went and hired Doyle with the Jacksonville Jaguars because Meyer's hubris led him to believe he'd be allowed to skate by on it but that's a different column.)

Creighton head coach Greg McDermott is among the influential college sports figures with attitudes toward his student-athletes that are uncomfortable at absolute best. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Creighton head coach Greg McDermott is among the influential college sports figures with attitudes toward his student-athletes that are uncomfortable at absolute best. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Penn State's men's basketball coach Pat Chambers, meanwhile, had to resign after using a comment about a noose with a Black player. In January, a UT-Chattanooga offensive line coach was fired after making racist and disparaging comments on Twitter.

There is one really obvious solution: These coaches and boosters and programs could just do much, much better than they are currently.

Really and truly, who says "I can't have anybody leave the plantation" as an attempt to keep your team together through tough times? Of all the things you could say as a motivational tactic, McDermott, that's what came to mind? Reminds us of when the late Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said the NFL couldn't have "inmates running the prison" when players began exercising their rights as citizens and protesting on behalf of their fellow Black Americans who were and continue to be killed by police, often for little more than misdemeanors at best.

Some UT boosters were especially pointed in their racism, as revealed in emails to university president Jay Hartzell and acquired by the Texas Tribune, which published them this week.

One alum used a sentiment similar to McNair when he noted that since Black students make up less than 6 percent of the entire UT student body: "The tail cannot be allowed to wag the dog ... and the dog must instead stand up for what is right."

Another wrote, "It's time for you to put the foot down and make it perfectly clear that the heritage of Texas will not be lost. It is sad that it is offending the blacks [sic]. As I said before the blacks are free and it's time for them to move on to another state where everything is in their favor."

(If this second individual, who made sure to use the off-putting "the blacks" twice, can point us Black folk to the mythical "state where everything is in their favor," that'd be lovely.)

Both of those emailers said that if Black students don't like the school song they can go elsewhere.

It's time for Black students and student-athletes considering Texas and other schools who harbor such disdain to take their advice.

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