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Professor apologizes to black people because he said ‘America needs college football’

Didn’t realize the ‘hurt’ he caused

A professor at Ohio State University has written an opinion piece apologizing for a previous commentary that urged a return of college football.

Ohio State Professor Matthew Mayhew apologized in a piece published by Inside Higher Ed for an earlier submission titled “Why America Needs College Football.”

America does not need college football, the professor of education wrote on Tuesday. “I was uninformed, ignorant and harm inducing.” His apology came after a September 27 letter to the editor from Dallas College Professor Andrew McGregor criticized the commentary.

He apologized “for the hurt, sadness, frustration, fatigue, exhaustion and pain this article has caused anyone,” but especially “Black students in the higher education community and beyond.”

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Mayhew, who is white, said he struggled to apologize without causing further damage.

He wrote:

I am struggling to find the words to communicate the deep ache for the damage I have done. I don’t want to write anything that further deepens the pain experienced by my ignorance related to Black male athletes and the Black community at any time, but especially in light of the national racial unrest. I also don’t want to write anything that suggests that antiracist learning is quick or easy. This is the beginning of a very long process, one that started with learning about the empirical work related to Black college football athletes.

Mayhew apologized for putting the burden on black males and said he should have titled the opinion piece “Why America Needs Black Athletes.” (Though he titled this mea culpa commentary “Why America Needs College Football — Part 2.)

“I learned that Black men putting their bodies on the line for my enjoyment is inspired and maintained by my uninformed and disconnected whiteness,” Mayhew said, “and, as written in my previous article, positions student athletes as white property.”

“I know it’s not anyone’s job to forgive me,” but he asks for it, calling it “another burden of a white person haunted by his ignorance.”

He continued:

I hate that my students have to carry my ignorant racist energy with them at all times. I hate that I brought a graduate student into this space with me as a co-author: Musbah Shaheen, I am sorry. I hate the fact that I have hurt my colleagues at Ohio State and the field of higher education, especially Black scholars whose careers have been spent studying Black lives. I am sorry for ignoring your scholarship. I hate that I have let down my Black friends and friends of color, whom I love.

Shaheen, a graduate student at the school, did not sign onto the apology column but co-authored the September 24 opinion piece.

That piece, also published in Inside Higher Ed, said college football can help “toward healing a democracy made more fragile by disease, racial unrest and a contested presidential election cycle.”

Mayhew and Shaheen argued that college football could help heal rifts by giving people a way to boost morale and unite people. Further, it gives players a way to express their political views.

The pair wrote:

Football gives players a platform to make statements about issues they care about. We have seen student athletes taking part in protests and making demands for racial equity. We have seen student athletes kneel to protest police brutality. Colleges and universities should take many more steps to empower athletes to engage with the community. Depriving them the opportunity to play doesn’t accomplish that goal.

“[C]ollege football represents an America where competition is sanctioned, community is encouraged and disagreement is emotionally regulated,” they wrote.

“If nothing else, it gives us a reason to cheer.”

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IMAGE: Paula Lively/Flickr

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