Speech police continues to intrude on sports [UPDATED]

Two recent examples are worth noting. First, Creighton University’s excellent basketball coach, Greg McDermott, is suspended from coaching his highly-ranked team as it bids for glory this month. McDermott’s suspension stems from a comment he made to his team after a very disappointing loss. Calling for unity, McDermott said:

Guys, we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation.

Perhaps McDermott meant to say “reservation,” not “plantation.” That would have been more in accord with common usage. But it too would have been politically incorrect.

McDermott recognized the inappropriateness (mild in my view) of saying “plantation.” He says he offered to resign, but his players didn’t want him to. He therefore coached the team’s next game, before being suspended by the school.

The Creighton players work with McDermott on a daily basis. They know whether he’s a racist. Evidently, they don’t think he is.

The team’s star, Marcus Zegarowski, who is mixed-race I believe, has spoken up on behalf of his coach. The player stated:

I know he made a really sensitive mistake, a really bad mistake with what he said but only I know everything that he’s done for me as a player, but more important as a human being. And he loves me, he loves everybody in that locker room and he’s shown that every single day I’ve been on this campus since June of 2018.

That’s my coach and I love that dude. But people make mistakes. That’s my guy.

This should be the end of the matter. Come on Creighton. Let the man coach his team.

The second case involves tweets by American soccer star Paul Arriola from 2012, when he was a teenager. Arriola, now 26, plays for Swansea City, on loan from DC United. He also appears regularly for the U.S. national team.

Cardiff City is the arch rival of Swansea City. Both Welsh teams play in England’s second tier and both are battling for promotion to the Premier League this season.

Apparently, a Cardiff City fan decided to dig into Arriola’s Twitter history. He found four offensive tweets from 2012. According to the Washington Post:

In one, replying to a friend, Arriola used the n-word and referred to someone who he said was “darker than an indian.” In another, he repeated a lyric from a song by Rick Ross and Drake that includes the n-word.

One included hashtags apparently directed toward a high school friend and said, “I didn’t know black people liked swimming?” And in another, Arriola wrote, “Women commentators, that’s a no no.”

Arriola has apologized profusely for these tweets. Fortunately, it seems he won’t be “cancelled.” Swansea City says it supports him and his decision to apologize. The U.S. Soccer Federation says “it’s important Paul recognized and acknowledged that those expressions, though made long ago, are not acceptable.”

DC United apparently plans to let Arriola off with nothing more than “bias training,” which it will give to all members of its organization. It’s unfortunate that Arriola and others will have to endure this, but United operates in D.C., so the team must have felt it had to do something.

It really didn’t. After all, it’s not like Arriola is up for a job enforcing America’s civil rights laws.

All the Arriola incident really demonstrates is how vicious British soccer fans can be. Soccer hooligans have been priced and policed pretty much out of committing thuggery in Britain, but they can still scour the internet in the hope of harming opposition players.

My favorite story of over-the-top fans trying to get hated opponents into trouble involves Everton, I’m sorry to say. Tommy Smith was a star defender for Liverpool in the 1960s and 70s. Late in his career, he played for Swansea City.

Smith’s style of play was, shall we say, uncompromising. Everton fans despised him.

By the end of his career, Smith had serious knee problems and eventually applied for and received disability payments from the government. The story goes that when he came back for an old-timers’ event, Everton fans spotted him kicking the ball around.

One (or maybe more) reported him to the government in the hope of ending Smith’s payments. The attempt was unsuccessful, according to the version I’ve heard.

Trying to terminate Smith’s disability benefits seems pretty low. But at least there was an allegation, perhaps credible, of defrauding the government. In Arriola’s case, the offense was a less serious one — insensitive tweeting as a teenager.

UPDATE: The suspension of coach McDermott has been lifted. He will coach Creighton in the Big East and NCAA tournaments.

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