Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has come under fire recently from some in the national media for a lot of things, especially his handling of the Danny Pearman racial slur incident.
A tweet also surfaced Saturday with a picture of Swinney wearing a “Football Matters” T-shirt and then there was an accusation from former walk-on Haamid Williams that Swinney used a racial slur while giving a tour of the Tigers’ football facility to a potential coach.
Swinney denied the accusation from Williams, calling it “false,” and also said the insinuation he was trying to mock the “Black Lives Matter” movement with his “Football Matters” T-shirt is an “attack on my character.”
Several Clemson players came to Swinney’s defense Thursday during a Zoom call with media members, including senior wide receiver Cornell Powell, who took up for his coach’s character and believes Swinney has done no wrong with how he’s handled everything.
“I feel like Coach Swinney, knowing him personally for going on five years now, he’s been nothing short of amazing to me and my family since the day that they came to my house and recruited me,” Powell said. “He’s such a genuine and loving guy, and everything can be taken and misconstrued, but Coach Swinney is really a genuine, loving person, and every player that he’s ever coached can back that 100 percent.
“And everything that’s been going on, he’s handled it perfectly, to me. I feel like he’s come out and he’s communicated with us, the seniors having that conversation, that discussion and then having the team meeting to address the situation and letting everyone get their feelings out and not trying to hide behind things.”
Star quarterback Trevor Lawrence also backed Swinney, saying it is easy for people to criticize him from the outside looking in, but those who know him best know what type of man he truly is.
“I think with Coach Swinney, for people that don’t know him to the public eye, it’s easy to judge the things that he does,” Lawrence said. “But the biggest testament to who he is, is the people that are around him every day — his family, all of his teams that he’s ever had and just the glowing views of what we have on him and the person he is.
“He’s proven that every day that we’ve been around him that he’s genuine, and we trust him. He’s been behind us this whole time, and I think sometimes from the outside looking in, it’s a little easier to judge some of the things he does because you don’t really have that relationship with him. But we fully support him, and he fully supports us.”
Linebacker Mike Jones Jr., the lead organizer of Clemson’s peaceful demonstration planned for this Saturday, appreciates the way Swinney has kept an open mind during these times and tried to promote change.
“Coach Swinney has been an awesome dude ever since I met him,” Jones said. “Just one thing for me, personally, it’s good to know that he is trying to understand certain things that are different from me and him. Just knowing that he wants to understand, he identifies there needs to be change, and now he’s like, how do we do the change? That’s what speaks to me, because a lot of people can hear stuff but to go do it is actually helping.”
Senior running back Darien Rencher echoed Jones’ sentiments about Swinney’s efforts to create change and bring about unification, not only within the program but the entire community as well.
“I think the best thing he’s done is consult the seniors, our staff,” Rencher said. “We’re trying to come together as a team and be unified. We don’t want to let anything divide us. That’s kind of the message for our community is like, this can be a moment to divide more people, but we want to unify. I feel like Coach Swinney’s tried to do that really well with our players, our staff and also just anybody.
“As he’s empowered us through PAW Journey and through other things, for us to even have this (peaceful demonstration) on Saturday, that was him empowering us for years, giving his players more of a voice so we can use it to make some change.”
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