Penn State Men’s Basketball Coach Pat Chambers finds himself is a huge racial hole of his own making. The timing could not be worse. This is, by far, the worst possible time for a rich middle-aged white man, especially one in a position of power, to be accused of racist behavior in the fifty-five years I have been alive… By far…
So how did we end up here?
Eighteen months ago, in January 2019, Chambers told then freshman starting point guard Rasir Bolton, “I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off you…
“I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.”
There it is… the big ass RACIAL elephant in the room. Chambers with that sentence created a devastating imagery that harkens back to the darkest days in this nation’s long and violent struggle with racism/white supremacy.
A middle-aged white man, working under a multi-million dollar contract at one of the most highly regarded public research Universities in the nation, said “I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck” to a young 19 year old Black man under his direct supervision. It’s an inexcusable comment… There is no other way to assess it.
That’s really, really fucked up… Unbeknownst to him, Chambers built a huge problem for himself right as the word “noose” passed through his mouth… A year and a half later, the bill has come due.
There are no ifs, ands or buts needed… It was a very bad and very bigoted moment… I have made this clear to Pat Chambers.
Moreover, it truly does not matter if Chambers intended it in a bigoted manner. It’s a bigoted statement. The word “noose” has a very specific connotation in the Black American community. The threat of the noose has been used to rigidly enforce an Apartheid/Jim Crow racist/white supremacist social order throughout American history. After slavery was abolished, lynching with “nooses” emerged as a horrific weapon used to reinforce white supremacy and suppress Black civil rights. At least, 4,000 Blacks were lynched with nooses between 1877 and 1950. There have been countless incidents of people using nooses to intimidate or terrorize Blacks in the ensuing years.
Pat Chambers knows this. Or, he should have known this was a totally unacceptable manner in which to speak to a young Black man in his basketball program.
Chambers, in a recent interview published on ESPN’s TheUndefeated.com, stated, “I didn’t realize that word would hurt him, and I am truly, truly sorry for that.”
There can be no doubt that Chambers should have realized that word would hurt any young Black man in his program. Saying he didn’t know it would hurt weakened the apology considerably.
Adding insult to injury, Bolton also alleges that Chambers later told him he was impressed with how “organized” and “well-spoken” his parents were.
Well… Damn… Now the RACIAL Hippo just joined the elephant in the living room.
From the moment Black people stopped working for free in the United States of America, a derogatory stereotypical narrative emerged: Blacks are disorganized, inarticulate and lazy. I have been praised countless times for my writing and being articulate, each and every time it feels like a paper cut.
Da fuck you talkin’ bout?
I attended some of the best schools in this country… Why can’t you assume that I am organized and well-spoken? It’s another inappropriate and bigoted comment.
The score is now 0-2 and Chambers is down in the late innings.
Figuratively speaking, he has RACIAL shit on the soles of both shoes. We now know that Bolton left the program and had a fine year at Iowa State after he was granted a waiver to play right away without sitting out a year. Chambers and Penn State also experienced a successful season. The divorce seemed to have worked out for both parties.
Then everything changed… The world seems to have finally come to the realization that racism/white supremacy is horrible and very much present in all aspects of American social life. After the murder of George Floyd, everyone has a heightened sensitivity to the stench of the 18 month old racial shit on Chambers shoes. College student-athletes have become activists and now lead racial reform movements. A football student-athlete at Oklahoma State called his Head Coach into question for supporting a network with a history of racist programming. Another football student-athlete sparked a movement that led to the removal of the slaveholder racist/white supremacist Mississippi state flag after it proudly flew for more than 126 years.
I wholeheartedly supported these movements. I stand with these kids. I applaud their bravery and willingness to confront racism/white supremacy. I think Bolton and his parents did the right thing when they formally complained to the Penn State administration last year. That’s what they should have done.
Obvious questions emerge: What was the appropriate consequence for Chambers’ actions 18 months ago? Did Penn State impose such consequences? Now, that the story has become public, what consequences, if any, should be taken today for Chambers actions 18 months ago?
Should he be fired? Should he be suspended?
Living and working in the Philadelphia region, reaction has been swift and, for the most part, very harsh.
As coach of the Nittany Lions, Chambers has had an incredible amount of success recruiting the Philadelphia region. Devonte “DJay” Newbill (Strawberry Mansion), Shep Garner (Roman Catholic), Tony Carr (Roman Catholic), Lamar Stevens (Roman Catholic), Nazeer Bostic (Roman Catholic), John Harrar (Strath Haven), Izaiah Brockington (Archbishop Ryan) and Seth Lundy (Roman Catholic) are some of the area players Chambers has recruited to play in Happy Valley.
Given the intense racial climate of today, it should come as no surprise that some observers are calling for his immediate dismissal. Time is up for racism/white supremacy…
For many Blacks, especially those unfamiliar with his racial track record, Chambers’ words uttered 18 months ago in the practice gym should cost him his job and perhaps his career. For them, the mere fact that the word “noose” crossed his lips is evidence of a previously unseen and deep seated racism/white supremacy permeating his true character.
As noted earlier… I agree that Chambers FUCKED UP! But does his behavior warrant a career death penalty? I don’t think so…
So… What should have happened?
There can be no denying that he should have been disciplined. The transgression should have been formally documented in his personnel file. An unpaid suspension of some sort would have been appropriate… Additionally, Chambers should have been required to attend a recognized cultural competency training… In short, Chambers should have definitely been subjected to serious and logical consequences for his behavior.
It should have been noted that further transgressions of this sort could lead to termination.
Penn State, apparently, chose not to impose such consequences. In this regard, the Penn State athletic director, Sandy Barbour, fumbled.
Now, because these incidents did not reach the general public 18 months ago, there was no widespread media coverage at the time. For better or worse, they have come to the fore right now, the absolute worst time… ever.
Eighteen months after Chambers said he wanted to “loosen the noose”, we have cops lynching unarmed Black men in the street. We have several young Black men dangling from trees with ropes around their necks in recent weeks. We have had a garage door pull fashioned into a noose in the garage of the only Black driver on the Nascar circuit. We have Confederate statues being toppled like dominos across the country. We have “Black Lives Matters” riots and protests in virtually every city and town in America and many others in nations spanning the globe.
The flames of racial anger are raging like California wildfires. Rasir Bolton came along and dropped an 18 month old kerosene soaked ” We Are” rag into that fire.
Again… Pat Chambers FUCKED UP.
With his carefully crafted reputation and, perhaps, his career hanging in the balance, I am sure he knows he FUCKED UP.
Here’s why I am sure Chambers grasps the seriousness of his situation…
Because he know what FUCKING UP looks like… So do I… On many occasions over the past decade, young men playing for Pat Chambers have also FUCKED UP. It’s what young college age men do…
It’s what I did when I was in college. I FUCKED UP… I smoked marijuana every day while I was in college. EVERY SINGLE DAY… I got in trouble for it… I was placed on something called “social probation” and my mother was notified about my fuck ups. I was arrested while in college. I was caught “running a speakeasy” while in college. My friends “hustled” relentlessly, while we were in college… I invested in their entrepreneurial efforts. I had several “incidents” in the girls dormitory while in college. I thank God, the adults at Lincoln University didn’t throw me away. I truly appreciate the patience, love and understanding they displayed every single time I FUCKED UP! Upon leaving Lincoln, I came to truly understand and appreciate the importance of grace.
Upon graduating from Lincoln, I had full fellowship, with substantial stipend, offers from Delaware, Michigan, Ohio State and California-Davis. At any one of 20 or more points during my time at Lincoln, I could have been kicked out of school. However, the adults believed in me and believed in my potential to do better. It’s a lesson that I’ve never forgotten.
Two weeks after graduating Lincoln, I was on a plane headed to the University of Michigan where I was paid to pursue graduate studies. After that, the University of Delaware and the University of Maryland paid me to do the same. I eventually taught at Maryland and Lincoln.
All of that after I FUCKED UP damn near every day in undergraduate school at Lincoln University.
Over the past ten years, I’ve watched Philly kids go out to State College and guess what… from time to time, they would FUCK UP. Sometimes they would get caught smoking weed… On occasion, they would be arrested… They would get into fights… They would have incidents with young women on campus. On each and every occasion, Pat Chambers handed out a measured and logical consequences for the behaviors. Never… not once, did he throw the young men away. Each and every time he notified all of the adults involved with the young man and came up with a plan to address the negative behaviors, while NOT throwing the young men away.
Some of the incidents were serious. He’s dealt with complex mental health issues. On multiple occasions, Chambers was urged by many commentators to dismiss the young men from the program. Never… Not once did he go down that road. Today, these young men are productive, contributing members of society and more importantly, they are Penn State graduates.
All this despite the fact that they FUCKED UP on campus more than a time or two…
So today, the tables are turned… This time Chambers FUCKED UP. There are some calling for his dismissal, there is a loud crowd gathering on the courthouse steps… They want the Penn State administration to remove Chambers from his position as Head Coach of the Men’s Basketball program. I get that… I understand those yearning to see his head roll… So far, the administration hasn’t given any indication that they are preparing to throw him to the angry mob. Hopefully, Chambers’ behaviors will treated as he has treated others. Of course, Penn State must address his bigoted comment, but they shouldn’t throw away the man.
If so, he will be held accountable for his actions. He will learn from his FUCK UP. And, most importantly the Penn State community will be better off as a result.
Besides, I have a seven year-old nephew that Chambers offered a basketball scholarship during a trip to Happy Valley. I also have a 3 year-old grandson. If they are interested in Penn State, I would send them both to play for Pat Chambers.
I know my youngins… They are likely to FUCK UP…