Two NFL stars who played at college football powerhouse Clemson are calling on the university to scrub the name of a former vice president who owned slaves from its campus.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who both played at Clemson and were later teammates in the NFL with Houston, have signed and promoted a petition demanding the school remove John C. Calhoun's name from buildings.
Hopkins said he has distanced himself from the university since departing for the NFL because of the affiliation.
"I felt this oppressive figure during my time at Clemson and purposely do not mention the University's name before NFL games because of it," he said in an Instagram post.
"Clemson University should not honor slave owner John C. Calhoun in any way," Watson tweeted Monday. "His name should be removed from all University property and programming. I am joining the students, faculty & DeAndre to restart this petition to rename the Calhoun Honors College."
The school was built on the site of Calhoun's 1,000-acre plantation, Fort Hill, where he owned around 75 African slaves, according to Clemson's website.
Calhoun was the seventh US vice president, and served under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. He later served as a US senator, and had stints as secretary of state and secretary of war.
Hopkins was traded from the Texans to the Cardinals in a stunning swap earlier this offseason.
Clemson's football program has been embroiled in a series of racially charged controversies in recent weeks and months. It was revealed an assistant coach used a racial slur in the presence of black players in 2017. Head coach Dabo Swinney defended the coach by saying it wasn't directed at a player.
As well, Swinney has long been seen wearing a "Football Matters" shirt, which has apparently upset players confused over its meaning given the co-opting and distorting of Black Lives Matter messaging. Swinney said he received the shirt from the NFL as part of a promotional campaign meant to fight declining youth participation, Dan Wolken of USA Today reported.