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Clemson's Swinney defends reaction to coach's 2017 slur

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made a lengthy statement Monday defending his response to a 2017 incident in which one of his assistant coaches used the N-word during a practice.

FILE PHOTO: Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney (C) talks to his team in the first half of their NCAA football game at the Gator Bowl against Nebraska in Jacksonville, Florida January 1, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Wallheiser (United States)

News of the three-year-old exchange between then-Tigers tight end D.J. Greenlee and special teams and tight ends coach Danny Pearman emerged last week.

Swinney had not commented on the situation until Monday, when his 14-minute video message was posted on ClemsonSportsTalk.com

Greenlee told The State newspaper last week that Pearman did not call him the N-word. He said Pearman was telling him not to use the term regarding one of his teammates when he uttered the pejorative word.

Swinney said of Pearman, “He shouldn’t have done that. There’s no excuse for saying it, doesn’t matter what the context is, but there is a big difference. He didn’t call someone an N-word. There’s a lot of things I don’t allow in our program, but when things happen we deal with it. Sometimes it’s in private, sometimes it’s in public. In this case the player came to me in private and we handled it in private. ...

“We have great communication with our team and it was handled.”

Greenlee told The State last week, “Coach Swinney explained to me what was going on. He said he was going to talk with coach Pearman. I don’t know if he did. Coach Pearman apologized.”

“(Pearman) apologized the rest of that season. He knew he was in the wrong,” Greenlee said, adding that he accepted the apology.

On June 2, Pearman issued a statement through the university that read, “Three years ago on the practice field, I made a grave mistake involving D.J. Greenlee. I repeated a racial slur I overheard when trying to stop the word from being used on the practice field. What I overheard, I had no right to repeat,” Pearman said in the statement.

The exchange was brought to light earlier on June 2 when former Clemson receiver Kanyon Tuttle tweeted a criticism of Swinney’s reply to the incident.

“You allowed a coach to call a player the n-word during practice with no repercussions. Not even a team apology,” Tuttle tweeted, in part, without naming Pearman.

Swinney also addressed criticism he received for wearing a shirt Saturday that had the slogan “Football Matters.” Some viewed it as a veiled shot at the Black Lives Matter movement that is gaining increased attention in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for eight-plus minutes on May 25.

Swinney responded Monday by explaining that he received the shirt years ago from the National Football Foundation.

“Any insinuation that I was trying to mock the Black Lives Matter movement is just an attack on my character and really sad,” Swinney said. “I also will say that 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 just like, ‘Hey we matter, too.’ I think black lives significantly and equally matter.”

--Field Level Media

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