Tell Alabama head football coach Nick Saban: Reject Trump’s tide of hate
Last fall, in front of a cheering white audience in Alabama, Donald Trump called African-American football players who are protesting systemic racism and police brutality “sons of bitches.” His rant continued with a demand that the overwhelmingly white NFL owners kick those players off their teams.
Trump’s refusal to acknowledge racism and his hateful desire to keep African-American men in their place show the white supremacy at the core of his agenda. His willingness to use bigotry to divide the country for political and personal gain proves the moral bankruptcy of his entire racist regime.
With a racist demagogue in the White House, every other person in the country has a choice to make: Will we use our power to resist Trump, or will we, through our actions or our silence, help enable his hate? With his speech in Alabama, Trump dropped this choice squarely in the laps of the state’s leaders, including the University of Alabama’s iconic football coach – Nick Saban.
Saban is college football royalty who leads one of the most visible and prominent athletic institutions in the American sports landscape. His power comes with responsibility, not only to his players and his university, but to people in Alabama and across the country who respect and revere him. He should accept that responsibility and speak out against Trump’s hate.
Tell Alabama Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban: Take a stand against Donald Trump’s racism.
Trump launched his political career by challenging President Obama’s citizenship, his presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, and his administration by banning Muslims from the country. Before calling football players taking a knee SOBs, he called the white supremacist Nazis who terrorized Charlottesville “very fine people.” His racist policies threaten decades of civil rights gains and the lives and safety of people of color all over the country. His racist rhetoric emboldens white supremacists and gives them permission to bring their hate into public view.
Anyone with the power to push back against Trump’s hate must use it, especially if their platform transcends politics. Fortunately, leaders in professional and college sports are stepping up:
- NFL players and coaches kneeled and stood together in a massive rejection of Trump’s comments the weekend after his speech and players continue to kneel throughout the league.1
- Steve Kerr, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant – the coach and star players of the 2017 NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors – have condemned Trump’s racism and said they would not accept an invitation to visit the Trump White House.2
- Roy Williams, the head coach of the North Carolina Tarheels, winners of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, has criticized Trump for “tweet[ing] out more bulls**t than anybody [he’s] ever seen” and said his team would also be skipping a White House visit this year.3
- Jim Harbaugh, who coaches another flagship college football program at the University of Michigan, called Trump’s speech in Alabama “ridiculous” and suggested Trump should “check the Constitution.”4
Saban is the highest-paid college coach and one of the highest-paid public employees in the country.5 He should use his platform to join these leaders in rejecting Trump’s hate, affirming the rights of his own players and proactively pledging not to visit the White House if he coaches Alabama to its 17th national championship.
Tell Nick Saban to stand up to Trump’s racism.
Saban’s ability to win national championships in a state where football reigns supreme has made him a local hero and the face of college football – a multibillion dollar sports industrial complex. He has a massive opportunity to lead, but immediately after the speech, he refused to directly challenge Trump’s hate. While he affirmed the right of NFL players to protest,6 he also tried to downplay his responsibility to do more (emphasis ours):
I'm just a football coach. I don’t keep up with that stuff as much as everybody else does, especially during the season, especially when we’re playing games... To me, some of the things that we do in our country when I grew up, they were unifying events and it's a little painful to see that those things are not so right now. But I also respect everyone's rights not to censored in terms of the way they express their beliefs. I'm just a coach. I don't have the answers to all the questions.7
Saban coaches in a conference whose football players are more than 50 percent African-American.8 He recruits players from all over the country to join his team.9 He is one of Alabama’s most well-known faces and one of the most media-savvy coaches in the country. He should be capable of using his national platform to effectively denounce Trump’s racism in his home state. Saban owes at least that to his African-American players and the players and students who want to be their allies, the Alabamians who pay his salary and believe that their state is better than Trump’s racism, and the millions of people threatened every day by Trump’s dangerous agenda.
Can you help ramp up the pressure on Saban to disavow Trump’s hateful critique of NFL protesters, affirm his players’ right to protest and pledge not to take his team to the White House if he wins the national championship?
Thanks for everything you do to resist Trump.
1. Benjamin Hoffman, Victor Mather and Jacey Fortin, "After Trump Blasts N.F.L., Players Kneel and Lock Arms in Solidarity," The New York Times, Sept. 25, 2017.
2. Jeremy Woo, "Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry and Warriors Unconcerned by Disinvitation to White House," Sport Illustrated, Sept. 23, 2017.
3. Adam Woodard, "National champion North Carolina men's basketball team won't visit White House," USA Today, Sept. 23, 2017.
4. Aaron McMann, "Jim Harbaugh tells President Trump to 'check the Constitution'," MLive, Sept. 24, 2017.
5. Steve Berkowitz, "Nick Saban to be paid $11.125 million this season after Alabama contract extension," USA Today, May 2, 2017.
6. Jeremy Woo, "Nick Saban Defends NFL Players’ Protests: ‘They Have the Right to do That,'" Sport Illustrated, Sept. 29, 2017.
7. Michael Casagrande, "Amid Trump-NFL clash, Alabama players and Nick Saban react to anthem protests," AL.com, Sept 25, 2017.
8. NCAA Sport Sponsorship, Participation and Demographics Search, "2016 - 2017 Division 1 Football Southeastern Conference Figures," accessed Sept. 26, 2017.
9. ESPN, "Alabama Crimson Tide Roster," accessed Sept. 26, 2017.
photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images