Politics & Government

Clemson professor takes on Swinney on anthem protests, MLK


Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney encourages his team.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney encourages his team. tdominick@thestate.com

A Clemson professor has written an open letter to the school’s head football coach Dabo Swinney, challenging him for invoking Martin Luther King in his criticism of football players not standing for the national anthem.

Chenjerai Kumanyika, a professor in the communication department at Clemson University, tells Swinney he shouldn’t have brought up King in his comments about ongoing protests by football players on Tuesday, in a letter posted to the Grio.

“Your statements reproduce a long history of folks, conservative and otherwise, positioning Dr. King as the palatable Christian alternative to unruly black protest,” Kumanyika writes.

While Swinney cited King’s philosophy of “peace” and “love” in contrast to today’s protests, Kumanyika notes that in his day, “There was nothing convenient or palatable about Dr. King.”

“Like today’s protesters, Dr. King faced critics who claimed that they agreed with his ultimate aim of justice but simply disagreed with his methods,” he writes.

“Coach Swinney, based on your statements, I think that maybe you would not have liked Dr. King if you had known him,” Kumanyika said, also writing that “I winced when I heard a reporter ask you, a white man who makes somewhere in the area of $5 million a year from the physical labor and bodily risk of unpaid black athletes, if he would ‘discipline’ them for making a political statement.”

Read the full letter to Swinney here.