When Dabo Swinney and Steve Spurrier agree, it’s perhaps as much an indicator of a consensus we’ll get for any topic.
The head coaches of rivals Clemson and South Carolina are known for trading barbs via the media almost year-round, but in the wake of the tragic mass-shooting in Charleston last week, Dabo Swinney and Steve Spurrier were two of the prominent South Carolinians to speak out in the ensuing controversy over the Palmetto State flying the Confederate flag.
Debate over celebratory displays of the Confederate symbol is not new, though its come to the national forefront in the days since the racially motivated murders in Charleston. Steve Spurrier’s denunciation of the “stars-and-bars” dates back at least to 2007, when he fired on a fan flying the emblem at a 2006 College Gameday broadcast, as only Spurrier can do:
“[S]ome clown … waving that dang, damn Confederate flag behind the TV set. And it was embarrassing to me and I know embarrassing to our state.
“I realize I’m not supposed to get in the political arena as a football coach, but if anybody were ever to ask me about that damn Confederate flag, I would say we need to get rid of it. I’ve been told not to talk about that. But if anyone were ever to ask me about it, I certainly wish we could get rid of it.”
Spurrier’s assertion he was “told not to about” the Confederate flag and that he’s “not supposed to get in the political arena as a football coach” speaks volumes, because it’s true. When Dabo Swinney’s scheduled appearance at a fundraiser last month was interpreted as a tacit support of denial of marriage rights, I wrote silencing opinion was not the way to impact change.
Alas, coaches are discouraged from taking strong stands. So when Spurrier strays from that line to come after the flag, there’s meaning behind it. And the Head Ball Coach reiterated his stance this week.
The South Carolina football team, players and coaches strongly support Governor Haley's decision to remove the flag from the capitol.
— Coach Steve Spurrier (@SC_HBC) June 23, 2015
Wade into his replies if you dare, but therein lies evidence of why coaches often avoid social issues.
Freshly removed from his own involvement in a touchy subject, Dabo Swinney could have sat quiet. Instead, he texted the following to The Post and Courier:
“Definitely should come down. In agreement with (Gov. Nikki Haley), (Clemson president Jim) Clements and (Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich).”
While they’re not politicians, Dabo Swinney and Steve Spurrier are representatives of the state of South Carolina — and vice versa. As I wrote in regard to the Swinney-Palmetto Family Council issue, the values with which coaches are associated follow them into the home of every recruit they visit. Perhaps that’s a pragmatic, if not downright cynical way of looking at it, because their willingness to address a controversial issue deserves kudos.
And if Dabo Swinney and Steve Spurrier can agree, that has to be good enough to unite most of the state, right?