Dabo Swinney has been conspicuously quiet amid our nationwide discussions about racial injustice. So far, he hasn’t commented on allegations against his assistant head coach, and his statement about George Floyd’s death has been much more poorly received than the powerful one released by his young star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
We’ve seen multiple programs have to reckon with issues of racism within their programs in recent days, as more players begin to speak about their experiences. Iowa and Utah have suspended key assistants in the wake of alleged racist comments. Other coaches, like Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, have marched and demonstrated with their players this week.
Clemson players are currently planning their own demonstration on June 13, according to a report by The Clemson Insider. The player-led protest will begin at Bowman Field and go through campus. One would imagine that Swinney will be there to support, but right now we don’t know.
A new picture going around Twitter appears to depict Swinney on vacation. The shirt that he is wearing in the picture, first posted by an Oklahoma fan before the entire account was deleted, is drawing a lot of attention. It reads “Football Matters.” Multiple different screenshots of the tweet have been making the rounds.
how about Dabo wearing a “Football Matters” shirt. T O D A Y. That’s his statement pic.twitter.com/RpVYH1ZRPZ
— s jei (@s_jeidje) June 6, 2020
It appears the tweet was deleted. Here you go. pic.twitter.com/wwcuEWZ8dh
— Elika Sadeghi (@elikasadeghi) June 6, 2020
There’s a lot to unpack here, complicated by Swinney’s history of criticizing Colin Kaepernick and his most recent relatively dispassionate comments when asked about the national atmosphere. At first glance, it is hard not to read the shirt as something of a rebuke of the Black Lives Matter movement. It would be very on-brand for Swinney to looks to reframe the conversation on football.
The genesis of the shirt is probably completely different, though. Football Matters has been something of a mantra for Swinney in recent years. From a 2017 speech at the South Carolina State House, via WIS-TV:
“Football matters,” Swinney said. “It matters. I tell people all the time when I go speak. Football matters. It’s one of the last great positive influences in young people’s lives. They don’t get it in their music, their social media. They don’t get it in a lot of other areas, but in the game of football, it’s still hard work.”
Football Matters is also a campaign started by the National Football Foundation. The font on the shirt looks very similar to the initiative’s logo, promoting the positives that come from the game.
We’ll likely never know for sure whether Dabo Swinney wore this shirt during this national reckoning as a statement, or if it just happened to be the shirt he put on today without giving it any more thought, but given his recent history with these issues, it isn’t surprising that it has started some public backlash.
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