Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney released a 14-minute video this week defending himself against critics. Swinney was responding to allegations that the n-word was directed at players in the program by assistant coach Danny Pearman, while also responding to criticism of a “Football Matters” shirt that people say was Swinney’s attempt to mock or belittle the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Anybody who has been in our program, they know that there are two words that I don’t want to hear,” Swinney said. “There are two in particular that I will absolutely call you out on. One is the n-word and the other is GD. I would fire a coach immediately if he called a player an n-word. No questions asked. That did not happen. Absolutely did not happen.
“[Greenlee] said, ‘I blocked the wrong f’in n-word’ and coach Pearman thought he was saying it to him and he’s mad and he reacted and he in correcting him repeated the same phase. He said, ‘We don’t say we blocked the wrong f’in n-word’ and he repeated it and he shouldn’t have done that. There is no excuse for saying that, it doesn’t matter what the context is. But there is a big difference. He did not call someone an n-word.”
As for the shirt, Swinney says it was givent to coaches by the National Football Foundation in 2014 and said that anyone who believed he was mocking the Black Lives Matter movement was making “an attack” on his character.
“I wholeheartedly support Black Lives Matter,” Swinney said. “In fact, I don’t quite think that’s adequate enough. I think black lives significantly and equally matter. To me, Black Lives Matter is just like, ‘hey we matter, too.’ I think black lives significantly and equally matter.”
Other allegations claimed Swinney himself used the n-word when complaining about music being played in the locker room. The claim was made by former player Haamid Williams who claimed Swinney said: “I don’t want to walk in the locker room with guests/future coaches hearing n—a this, n—a that in our house.” However, Swinney denies the claim.
“There was music blaring and literally every other word was the n-word,” Swinney said. “It was disappointing and I was embarrassed, especially with Coach Reed and walking him around. So we had a team meeting and what was said this week is absolutely false.
“The player who was playing the music, he called me this week saying, ‘this is crazy, this is an absolute lie.’ And I said, ‘I know.’ Anyway, I stood before the team and said I don’t want to hear that word. I’m trying to walk a coach around and I’m hearing the n-word over and over again. Never did I repeat that word.”
Swinney has led Clemson to back-to-back national championship appearances. Most recently, the Tigers fell short to reigning champions LSU, but one-year prior they were able to defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide to win the third national title in school history (and the second in three years).
It will be interesting to see whether the offseason controversy impacts the Tigers locker room chemistry or whether they will be able to put it all behind them and go on another run at the national title.