Urban Meyer says he has learned that a photo of slain teenager Trayvon Martin was used during a freshman meeting when Meyer was Ohio State University's head football coach, but that he was unaware at the time.
As reported by Sports Illustrated, citing reports by The Columbus Dispatch, former Buckeyes cornerback Marcus Williamson tweeted a picture of Martin, a 17-year-old shot and killed in 2012, and said the photo was shown to players via a PowerPoint presentation to enforce the team's rule against wearing hoodies, hats and sunglasses indoors. Martin was killed while wearing a hoodie.
Upon learning from several former OSU football players that the photo had been used during a freshman meeting to enforce the rule, Tyvis Powell, another former Buckeye, informed Meyer. On Monday, Powell tweeted that the individual in charge of the presentation was uneducated about the Trayvon Martin story and apologized after he was made aware that the photo use was offensive.
“I didn’t know about it until one hour ago, until after talking to [Powell],” Meyer, who was fired midseason by the Jacksonville Jaguars, said Tuesday. “I wasn’t there [in the meeting]. None of the coaches were present. It was a support staffer who was in error and apologized.”
That statement represented a shift from what Meyer said Sunday, when he denied the photo's use. “Our team rule was no hats or hoodies or sunglasses of any kind but only in team meetings, just so we could see their eyes and make sure they were paying attention and not asleep,” Meyer said then. “We did not, and never would show a picture of Trayvon Martin. My gosh, no. That is absolutely false and you can check with any other player on my teams during that time to confirm what I am saying. Other players know what [Williamson] is saying is false. I would never do that. He is crossing the line here. It seems people are just piling on now. But that never happened.”
Powell told The Dispatch he disclosed the use of Martin's photo in order to make sure people knew Williamson was not lying. Powell also maintains that while at Ohio State from 2012 to 2015, he never saw or experienced any racism from the program or Meyer.
“People think it’s racist to show that photo of Trayvon Martin, and I understand where they’re coming from,” Powell told The Dispatch. “To the black culture that is huge. There will be an uproar whenever that is brought up in a meeting or whatever context. Automatically it is offensive to people.”