Leach to Expand Cultural Awareness After Noose Tweet

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Mississippi State University director of athletics John Cohen has issued a statement regarding the controversial tweet posted and later deleted last week by head football coach Mike Leach.

Leach on Wednesday night tweeted a meme depicting an elderly woman knitting a noose, with the caption: "After 2 weeks of quarantine with her husband, Gertrude decided to knit him a scarf." It was deleted Thursday morning, but not before it had garnered 4,000 "likes."

The meme wasn't universally appreciated, however. As reported by WJTV in Jackson, MSU athletic director John Cohen issued a statement Tuesday after the university had held an internal discussion, as well as several listening sessions with student and alumni groups.

“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. Mississippi State University was disappointed in the use of such an image in a tweet by Coach Mike Leach. He removed the tweet and issued a public apology,” Cohen said. “The university is confident that Coach Leach is moving quickly and sincerely past this unintended misstep and will provide the leadership for our student athletes and excitement for our football program that our fans deserve and that our students and alumni will be proud to support.”

As reported by the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, senior linebacker Erroll Thompson, who was a captain on last year's team, retweeted the original post with a hand-on-the-chin thinking emoji. Defensive lineman Fabien Lovett responded to the tweet with "Wtf." Senior defensive end Kobe Jones responded to Lovett with "Facts. He tripping." with a hand-on-the-face ashamed emoji.

Margaret Hagerman, an assistant professor of sociology at MSU who received a Ph.D from Emory University in 2014, also responded to the tweet by saying that "lynching 'jokes' are incredibly offensive anywhere" and "especially in Mississippi." She also suggested that Leach delete the tweet and visit The National Memorial for Peace and Justice to learn about "this brutal history."

Thompson then retweeted Hagerman's tweet.

Leach's tweet, which follows controversial online musings about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama (the latter dating back to his days at Washington State), led Mississippi State defensive lineman Fabien Lovett  to transfer out of the program.

Leach will, in fact, be attending museums as a way "expand his cultural awareness of Mississippi." These include guided visits to the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. He will also participate in additional listening sessions with student, alumni, and community groups, according to a Cohen's plan.

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