A number of star athletes are attempting to use their influence to change the environment at their former universities.
NFL Pro Bowlers DeAndre Hopkins and DeShaun Watson have signed a student petition demanding Clemson to remove John C. Calhoun’s name from the university, while former MLB all-star Kevin Youkilis is among the University of Cincinnati alums petitioning to remove Marge Schott’s name from the school’s baseball stadium.
Calhoun’s bio on Clemson’s website notes that he was a slave owner. A 1981 name change led to Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College being named after Calhoun, who was John Quincy Adams’ vice president from 1825 until 1829 and died in 1850. According to ESPN, Clemson’s campus is built on Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation.
The Cincinnati baseball stadium is named after Schott, who died in 2004. Yahoo Sports reported Schott was suspended and fined multiple times by MLB for racist and anti-Semitic comments she made while she owned the Cincinnati Reds.
The petition to change the name of Marge Schott Stadium was started by former Cincinnati baseball player Jordan Ramey.
“Marge Schott was a former owner of the Reds before she was banned from the MLB for her support of Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler in 1996. She is also known to have said multiple racial slurs towards African-Americans, Jews, and people of Japanese ancestry,” the petition reads. “Marge Schott Stadium is represented by players of all races, religious backgrounds, and ethnicities, and plays host to middle and high school baseball teams as well. The field is getting national attention every year and to promote somebody so racist is not only irresponsible, but it is also directly contradictory to the University’s mission statement which says the goal of the University is ‘..to foster a community that prioritizes inclusion, transformational personal development, civic participation, and global responsibility.”
Nathan Moore, a current Cincinnati baseball captain, posted the petition on Twitter along with a note saying “It is an injustice to myself, other athletes of color and the University to not take a stand against continuing to allow our stadium and facilities to carry the name of Margaret Schott.”
Youkilis, who played at Cincinnati before helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series in 2004 and 2007, tweeted that he stands with Moore. He added that he had an opportunity to donate and have Cincinnati’s baseball facility be named “Kevin Youkilis Field at Marge Schott Stadium.” Youkilis said his dad told him it was a great honor, but the “problem is that our family name will never coexist with that other individual. I will never let our family name be next to someone that was filled with such hatred towards our Jewish community.”
Roann Abdeladl started the petition to remove Calhoun’s name from Clemson, saying that Calhoun “exemplifies institutional racism and white supremacy.” The petition said removing the name would “acknowledge that our understanding of history has evolved. To maintain the name, on the other hand, is to convey Clemson University’s continued indifference toward a history of institutional racism and state-sanctioned violence against Black life.”
Hopkins, an Arizona Cardinals wide receiver who played at Clemson from 2010-12, posted several racist Calhoun quotes along with information about the petition on Instagram Monday. Hopkins included a link to the petition, which had almost 10,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning, along with a caption that included “Clemson University still honors the name of well known slave owner and pro-slavery politician John C. Calhoun on its buildings, signs, and in the name of its honors program. I felt this oppressive figure during my time at Clemson and purposely do not mention the University’s name before NFL games because of it.”
Watson, the Houston Texans quarterback who led Clemson to the 2016 national title, posted the petition on Twitter, saying “Clemson University should not honor slave owner John C. Calhoun in any way. His name should be removed from all University property and programming. I am joining the students, faculty & DeAndre to restart this petition to rename the Calhoun Honors College.”