Dabo breaks silence about n-word incident, other criticism he faced

·7 min read

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney released a 14-minute video Monday night addressing a number of topics that have been discussed at length over the past several week.

Swinney opened by stating that “as a coach and as a team, we will do our part to create positive change against racism of any kind, social injustice and police brutality.”

He then moved on to a number of other items. Here’s everything he said about criticism he faced over the past week:

On the n-word incident with assistant coach Danny Pearman and former player D.J. Greenlee

“First of all, I would say, anybody who has been in our program, they know that there’s two words I don’t want to hear — there’s a lot of them that I don’t want to hear, but there’s two of them 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 the n-word. No questions asked. That did not happen. Absolutely did not happen. It has not happened.

A story broke this week and the story was not in context. But what happened was, I didn’t know anything about it. It was a coach and his player, coach Pearman and D.J., off doing a drill on part of the field. It wasn’t in front of the whole team or anything like that. And coach Pearman was correcting D.J. He didn’t do the right thing. I think another player was talking to D.J. or D.J. was talking to another player. And D.J. said something he probably shouldn’t have said. He said, ‘I blocked the wrong effing n-word.’ And coach Pearman thought he was saying it to him and he’s mad and he reacted.

He basically, in correcting him, repeated and said the phrase. He said, ‘We don’t say I blocked the wrong effing n-word.’ And he repeated it. And he shouldn’t have done that. There’s no excuse for even saying that. It doesn’t matter what the context is. But there is a big difference. He did not call someone an n-word.

And so again, I didn’t know anything about it. Things happen. There’s a lot of things I don’t allow in our program. But when things happen we deal with them. Sometimes it’s private, sometimes it’s public. This particular case the player came to me in private. And we handled it in private. And I think it’s important to know because every case is different, but this particular player, D.J., I’ve known him his entire life. Coach Pearman’s known him his entire life. But he brought this to me in private, told me what happened, I met with coach Pearman, he was profusely apologetic. And he told me exactly the same thing.

I also consulted with coach (Woody) McCorvey on it. And we moved on. Coach Pearman apologized and we moved on. And I think it’s also important to know this player’s dad, he and I have worked together for going on 18 years. He’s been my strength coach for 12 years. The Greenlee family, they’re family. So there wasn’t anything swept under the rug. There wasn’t some dirty secret. We handled it head on.

I also will say that forgiveness and grace, I think, is important. It’s important for any of us. But I’ve known Danny Pearman for 30 years. And Danny Pearman is a good man. He’s had incredible relationships with his players. You can call Dwayne Allen. You can call Jordan Leggett. You can call Brandon Ford. And on and on and on. He’s had great relationships with his players. So this was totally out of character. But we dealt with it. And we moved on. We have great communication within our team and it was handled.”

On the notion that Swinney suggested players try to limit distractions by staying out of the sit-in at Sikes Hall in 2016

“The Sikes sit-in, we had players participate in the Sikes sit-in. And I would never tell someone they could not go participate in something they believe in or exercise just their basic right. I would never do that. But as a coach our job is to teach, to educate, to protect, inform and (I) consulted with the staff and I stood in front of the team. And the only thing I said to the team was just, ‘If you’re gonna participate, make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Make sure you know what the agenda and the message is — the fine print, if you will. Because you’re not gonna be Johnny Joe the student and go over there and just blend in. If you go over and participate you need to be prepared to be on the news and be on ESPN and so forth because of who you are. So just make sure it’s something that you really know you’re getting involved in.’ That was the only thing I said.”

On the accusation by a former player that Swinney used the n-word while telling the team to stop playing songs with the n-word in the locker room

“The music. I was actually hiring Mike Reed, who is my now DB coach and has been since 2012. And was touring him around. We were down there by the locker room. And there was music blaring and literally every other word was an n-word. And it was disappointing. And I was embarrassed, especially with coach Reed, walking him around. So we had a team meeting, and what was said this week was absolutely false. In fact, the player who was playing the music, he called me this week saying, ‘Coach, this is crazy. This is an absolute lie.’ And I said, ‘I know.’

But anyway, I stood before the team and as I always do said, ‘Guys, 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 and over.’ Never did I repeat that word. So I wanted to address that.”

On the ‘football matters’ shirt Swinney wore while posing for a picture this weekend

“And then the last thing is I had a t-shirt on that someone took a picture of me, that asked to take a picture. And it’s a shirt I’ve had for a couple years. It was given to pretty much every coach by the National Football Foundation. And that’s been their promotional thing I think all the way back to 2014. And I would just say any insinuation that I was trying to mock the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is just an attack on my character. Just an attack on my character. And really sad.

But I also will say I wholeheartedly support Black Lives Matter. 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 kind of like ‘Hey, we matter too.’ I think black lives significantly and equally matter. All right, God loves us all. None of us are better than anybody else. It doesn’t matter what color our skin is, where we’re born, any of that stuff, all right. In the eyes of God we are all equal, all first-team, all five stars. We’ve all got an eternal contract. And that is what I believe.

And again, actions are much louder than any words that I can say. And I will tell you I’ve always loved me players. I’m tough on them. But I love them deeply. And this past week it has hurt. It has been hurtful to see the pain in my players.”