Many teams across college football have already worn or are planning to display social justice messages with nameplates and uniform patches this season. While Dabo Swinney acknowledges that black lives “more than matter,” the longtime coach has been hesitant to express that sentiment—or any message for that matter—on Clemson’s uniforms.
“I’m a very traditional guy,” said Swinney, as transcribed by ESPN’s David M. Hale. “I came from Alabama. It's not anything to do with the messages, I've always just not messed with uniforms.”
Swinney said players choosing to shine a light on social causes have his full support. In fact, Swinney participated and even spoke at a march organized by Trevor Lawrence, Mike Jones Jr., Cornell Powell and Darien Rencher over the summer. However, the 50-year-old has shied away from organizations with a political slant, preferring to align himself with “common-sense causes.”
“I’m on board with a lot of the messages, but I’m not on board with political organizations,” Swinney told reporters Tuesday. “I've voted Democrat, Republican, independent, I've written in people when I didn't like anyone running. I'm apolitical when it comes to organizations.”
A caller pressed Swinney during his Monday night radio show, asking the two-time National Champion to weigh in on Black Lives Matter and other initiatives aimed at promoting social justice. “I don't judge somebody because they don't think the way I think. I think that is one of the issues that we have," Swinney responded. “We don't have any tolerance or respect for differences of opinion, different views anymore. There is no one around here that supports a senseless death of any kind; racism, anything that is against the police or police brutality. Nobody supports those things.”
Despite eschewing some of the more politically-driven (at least in his mind) movements that have gained traction following recent tragedies in Louisville (Breonna Taylor), Minneapolis (George Floyd) and Kenosha (Jacob Blake), Swinney has encouraged discussion among his players in hopes of arriving at a common ground. “We have a united football team that definitely does not all think the same. They do not all think the same and they do not agree on everything and this and that, but they love each other,” said Swinney. “I think that is a great example for all of us.”
Swinney’s top-ranked Tigers have barely broken a sweat this season, scoring convincing victories over Wake Forest (37-13) and The Citadel (49-0) in the early going. Their next test will come against Virginia Saturday night at Death Valley.