One week ago, Dabo Swinney shared his thoughts on Colin Kaepernick's National Anthem protests and, in that Dabo way he has, weaved it into the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and, in his view, the sin problem encapsulating America. If you haven't read them yet, you should.
Dabo's comments, while speaking from his heart, fanned the flames of an ongoing national debate and were picked up by the mainstream media both inside and out of the sports page, which led Swinney to apologize to his team. He didn't apologize for his comments, but the fact they created such a wide-spreading ripple which in his mind caused a distraction.
And Dabo hates distractions.
“He apologized for being a team distraction, since he’s always preaching about not being a distraction,” Clemson linebacker Dorian O’Daniel said Tuesday, via the Charleston Post and Courier. “A lot of guys appreciated the apology, even though we weren’t looking for it.”
Swinney deserves credit for playing by the same rules he established for his team. Clemson players are required to go dark from social media during the season so as to prevent distractions. (Though in recent years the players have voted to extend the ban.)
Though, in its own way, doesn't this episode call into question the necessity of Dabo's rule in the first place?
We argued a year ago that banning players from social media for fear of preventing distractions before they happen is ultimately a short-sighted move that restricts players from a learning opportunity in the process, and Swinney's comments and the following reaction indirectly proves that. While it's possible a Clemson player could fire off a tweet that puts Clemson football on ABC News' website, it's highly, highly unlikely. And, even if it did, how much of a "distraction" would that really be? From the Post & Courier:
O’Daniel, one of the team’s oldest and most well-spoken players, said many players hadn’t heard much about the hubbub until Swinney brought it up.
One week ago, Dabo stepped in front of a microphone and spoke his mind. It wasn't his fault they went viral. Many agreed, many disagreed, but either way Dabo's views forwarded a necessary national conversation. Like it or not, much of that conversation in America 2016 takes place on social media. He should encourage his players to participate.