The head football coach at Mississippi State University will have to complete sensitivity training because he tweeted out what many consider to be a racially offensive meme.
Earlier this month, Mike Leach posted to Twitter a vintage-looking photo of an old woman knitting. The accompanying text said “After 2 weeks of quarantine with her husband, Gertrude decided to knit him a scarf.”
Except that … the “scarf” is actually a noose.
Some of Leach’s players expressed on social media their dissatisfaction and disappointment with the tweet, and generated many sympathetic responses. In addition, MSU sociology professor Margaret Haberman wasted little time jumping into the matter, suggesting Leach visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice “to learn about lynching’s ‘brutal history.’”
According to The New York Times, Haberman got her wish: Leach’s sensitivity training includes “museum visits.” The coach will also have to attend “listening sessions” with “students, alumni and community groups.”
One of Leach’s players, Fabien Lovett, announced last week he plans on transferring to another school due to Leach’s tweet … and subsequent “insincere” apology.
“That’s the prime example of why I need to leave Mississippi,” […] Lovett, said. …
“We’re in the South,” Lovett said. “We’re in Mississippi. Stuff like that plays a huge role in our family, especially black men. Our ancestors were lynched.”
Mississippi State declined to make its president, Mark Keenum, available Thursday and did not respond to requests to interview Leach and Athletic Director John Cohen.
Cohen said in a statement this week that the university was disappointed in Leach. “No matter the context, for many Americans the image of a noose is never appropriate, and that’s particularly true in the South and in Mississippi,” Cohen said.
Times writer Jeré Longman claims the coach’s tweet “conflicted with a history of broad-mindedness at Mississippi State on matters of race and sports.” He points to 1963’s “Game of Change” in which MSU’s all-white basketball team defied the governor and “sneak[ed] out of the state” to play a team which had four black starters.
“Broad-mindedness” is an interesting choice of words given that broad-minded people wouldn’t necessarily read racist intent into Leach’s tweet in the first place. Broad-minded people would take the tweet in the manner in which it was intended: that coronavirus-induced stay-at-home orders are (humorously) putting husbands and wives at each others’ throats.
As The Federalist’s David Marcus wrote, this incident is an example of “two very different and often contradictory definitions of racism.” The “modern leftist definition,” he says, “occurs when, even unintentionally, a person fails to take into account how others might interpret his statements or actions.”
IMAGES: Shutterstock.com, Twitter screencap