Clemson senior offensive lineman Jay Guillermo showed some class following Saturday’s annual game between his team and the University of South Carolina. Unfortunately many others on and off the field didn’t follow his example.
After Clemson’s 56-7 shellacking of USC, Gamecock defensive lineman Dante Sawyer tweeted about a racial slur one of the Tigers’ offensive linemen hurled at South Carolina linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams during the game.
“They used the n-word, one of their offensive linemen. I don’t know which number,” Allen-Williams said.
Clemson’s Guillermo reportedly contacted Sawyer after the game about the incident, and Sawyer responded by saluting Guillermo and thanking him for the gesture. It was a moment of grace.
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But the game was marred by several other incidents and an overall tenor of nastiness from the stands. Clemson players said they had heard numerous racial epithets from fans.
Players from the two teams had a confrontation about an hour before kickoff on a corner of the field. And there was ample smack talk among the players at the end of the game.
Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said he spoke with his players and they denied using racial slurs. Swinney also teed off on the media, saying they were wrong to focus on the incident reported by USC players and instead should have been highlighting Clemson’s lopsided win.
“Instead of the headline being 23-1 in the last two years, instead of the headline being the seniors winning their 46th game and instead of the headline being the largest margin of victory ever against an SEC team and one of the most dominating performances ever, the headline is what someone said?” Swinney said. “Give me a break.”
We agree that Clemson deserves all those accolades and more. And we also realize this was an emotional football game.
But no one should turn a blind eye to unruly behavior, racist slurs and threatening language among players and fans. And coaches need to be at the forefront in discouraging trash talk on the part of their players.
Saturday’s behavior in the stands – the pushing, shoving and yelling – did not reflect well on the two universities, which, in turn, are the two flagship educational institutions in the state. The schools need to establish a baseline of acceptable decorum, and students need to exercise self-control.
We know that games such as this spur the high spirits and bring out the gamut of emotions in fans and players alike. We don’t expect fans to take a vow of silence and sit on their hands during the game.
But they at least should keep it civil and not use epithets against their rivals. This annual game has a big audience, and those under the gaze of spectators need to think about how they are representing their schools.