UPDATED May 27: Dabo Swinney canceled his scheduled appearance at the Palmetto Family Council and issued a statement, clarifying that his organization was to receive an award and he was not intended to endorse what he called a “political” position.
OutSports.com details plans for Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney to appear at a fundraising event for the Palmetto Family Council. Swinney’s appearance is newsworthy because the Palmetto Family Council, among its other work, is an active participating in the movement to ban same-sex marriage in South Carolina.
Outsports quotes a portion of the organization’s mission statement:
Our vision is to transform the culture in South Carolina by promoting the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model, and sexual purity.
The Palmetto Family Council doesn’t just offer tacit support of banning same-sex marriage, either: the organization’s president, Oran Smith, was an architect of a proposed amendment designed expressly to ban gay marriage.
Now, Palmetto Family Council is an organization that actively participates in outreach for domestic violence victims, and domestic violence has indeed become a hot-button, ancillary issue surrounding football in recent years.
Be that as it may, such aggressive work to ban same-sex marriage is enough to earn the Palmetto Family Council as an anti-gay organization. Dabo Swinney lending his celebrity to such a group in turn associates him with anti-gay rhetoric — which then associates Clemson with it.
Swinney and ostensibly Clemson football as a whole, will face backlash for this scheduled appearance. Tim Griffin of the San Antonio News-Express summarizes it best:
Ruh row. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is “fixin'” (as he likes to say) to tread into some deep water over the summer.
— Tim Griffin (@TimGriffinBig12) May 26, 2015
As the most recognizable representative of Clemson, I understand Dabo Swinney’s actions reflect on the university. If Clemson students or Tigers players opt to push for him to pull out, they are certainly justified in doing so.
However, outsider outcry for Swinney to disassociate from the Palmetto Family Council accomplishes…what, exactly? I ask because I’m genuinely curious. Perhaps he’s unaware of the group’s discriminatory measures and public backlash will alert him — in which case, however, folks at Clemson should be concerned that the head coach is so obtuse.
Fear of outside pressure shouldn’t curtail opinions. I would hate to think the first public showing of support for gay athletes from the college football community might have been silenced because of backlash.
I refer specifically to UCLA’s Jim Mora, a supporter of the You Can Play project, which notes that Mora is the first Div. I head coach to publicly speak out in favor of inclusion for gay athletes.
My viewpoint aligns more with Mora’s than the mission statement of the organization with which Dabo Swinney is now associated, and were my son recruited by a coach like Mora, who publicly stood up for gay athletes, I would be proud to see him become part of such a program.
The proverbial marketplace has a way of doling out consequences, and it’s quite effective.
The history of sports has proven that those leaders willing to take progressive stances are the most successful. To wit, Missouri won the SEC East with one of the nation’s premier defenses, anchored by SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam, some four decades after USC’s integrated roster ran roughshod over Bear Bryant’s homogenized Alabama team.