Get Down or Lay Down: James Maguire, St. Joseph’s, Penn and Anthem Protest Suppression

Last week, billionaire Philanthropist, James Maguire sent a letter to the Presidents of St. Joseph’s University and the University of Pennsylvania in which he, in effect, told them to “get down or lay down” with his desire to suppress peaceful non-violent protest by the Penn Men’s basketball team.

James Maguire, Sr., Largest Donor in St. Joseph’s history

According to reporting by the Inquirer’s Mike Jensen, Maguire’s letter stated, “I am serving notice to you that the Maguire Foundation and I personally will not be renewing any scholarship gifts or pledges (present or future) nor undertaking any future commitments to Penn.”

Let’s be clear here… Because Penn allows basketball players to silently protest the anthem, Maguire is cutting all financial contributions. That part is done… Penn is cut off from Maguire and his foundation…

Now… Penn will be just fine… St. Joe’s?

Jensen further reports that, Maguire has donated more money to St. Joseph’s University than any other individual in the school’s history. Indeed, the former Episcopal Academy campus on City Avenue is now the Maguire campus at St. Joseph’s. Maguire’s relationship with St. Joseph’s is far more intimate and consequential than his relationship with Penn. Maguire sent a copy of his letter to Penn President Amy Gutmann, to St. Joseph’s president Mark Reed and athletic director Jill Bodensteiner. He also provided a copy to the Inquirer.

In the letter, Maguire directly asked St. Joseph’s President Reed to suppress the protest that may occur on the St. Joseph’s campus.

“By copy of this letter I am asking Saint Joseph’s to uninvite [Penn’s] team to their campus on December 8th for that game… To openly support disrespect to our country and to our flag is wrong and I do not want to be part of this disrespect.”

Get down or lay down…

Photo Credit: Charles Fox, Inquirer

Again, Penn will be just fine… St. Joseph’s, however, is in very a tough spot. It has been and continues to be a primary beneficiary of Maguire’s incredible philanthropy. He has given away hundreds of millions of dollars to educational causes, with billions left to disperse.

A tough predicament for President Reed and Bodensteiner for sure… St. Joseph’s University and the St. Joseph’s Athletic Department need Maguire and the Maguire Foundation.

Does the St. Joseph’s administration accept his assertion that the protests are disrespectful to our country and the flag? If so, how does the administration respond. If not, how does St. Joseph’s manage to remain in the good graces of the most generous benefactor in the history of the school?

Seems almost quaint to be engaged in this conversation at this point. I thought peaceful non-violent protests of the anthem were officially categorized as acceptable behavior in American society – the Kaeperneck effect. I guess I miscalculated. I thought we were trying to figure out if the erection of gallows on the grounds of the nation’s capital was acceptable. I assumed we were more focused on armed insurrections aimed at overturning duly conducted elections. Those seem like more pressing and hot-button protest-related issues these days. Coming after protestors for kneeling/sitting during the anthem is so 2016.

Now, if the Penn kids were smearing shit on paintings and statues while rhythmically screaming “Hang Mike Pence” as they invaded the US the Capital to thwart the peaceful transfer of power, I’d understand the trepidation surrounding their activities.

Kneeling/sitting during the anthem? Really?

Seriously… I had no idea we were still campaigning to stop such “dangerous” activities.

The Quakers are not disrespecting our country and our flag… But, even if you feel they are over the line, is the level of disrespect so profound that it warrants calling for cancellation of a Big 5 basketball game?

It should be noted that St. Joseph’s “absolutely will be hosting Penn on December 8 as scheduled” according to Liz Kennedy Walsh, vice president for marketing and communications at St. Joseph’s.

Apparently, St. Joseph’s has decided not to get down in this instance… Looks like St. Joseph’s had denied Maguire’s request to uninvite the Quakers.

Will he make St. Joseph’s lay down?

Maguire is rather adamant in his position. The Penn players are disrespectful and their protest should be suppressed.

As reported by Jensen in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Maguire, said he “jumped out of planes, froze my ass off, saluted my American flag every day and loved my country with all its shortcomings.”

Maguire is openly leveraging his enormous financial resources in an attempt to force the University of Pennsylvania and St. Joseph’s University to stifle the protests.

St. Joe’s is in a tough predicament. Maguire is the “MAN” at St. Joseph’s by any reasonable way one could measure such a thing. He’s that guy… He has donated more money to St. Joseph’s than any other person… ever. He also also carried thousands of needy students through Philadelphia’s Catholic elementary, middle and high schools. Maguire walks the walk. His contributions to local educational organizations are of historic proportions. The man is committed to the idea of providing access to quality education.

Maguire Campus Entryway at St. Joseph’s University

Obviously an extremely intelligent man, Maguire, in what could be construed as tacit acknowledgement of the issues raised by the Penn players, recognizes that the United States of America has what he euphemistically refers to as “shortcomings.”

This is where cultural differences become pronounced. The “shortcomings” become something entirely different and more significant when viewed through Black eyes. A group of young Black Penn players have unpacked the “shortcomings” category and gave it a different moniker.

As reported by Mike Jensen, “A Penn captain, Jelani Williams, said after the Quakers home opener, in which all but three players sat during the anthem, joined by two assistant coaches, how “we’ve had a lot of internal conversations just about how guys have felt in their experience in this country as Black young men. There are still a lot of people in the prison-industrial complex. The wage gap is still growing every day. There’s a bunch of stuff.”

The issue is not whether the players are justified in protesting. The fight is for the space to conduct the protest. Maguire is explicitly seeking to take away Hagan Arena as a locale for non-violent, silent protest during the national anthem.

We’ve stepped into the Critical Race Theory realm… American history is so racist that when you tell it straight, a lot of white people accuse you of focusing too much on race. Take the anthem for example… Let’s explore the origin of the anthem, the explicitly white supremacist character of Francis Scott Key and the racist lyrics largely hidden from public view.

The Penn players are well within their 1st amendment rights to not sing the racist anthem written by a ardent racist/white supremacist. Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner. Key also enslaved African-American people. Key championed and heavily participated in the American system of chattel slavery. Key had a very specific servitude relationship with African-Americans whereby he enslaved and treated them as personal property. Key was free to sell, trade, or treat African-Americans as he would cattle, horses and other livestock. This is Francis Scott Key.

Black folk… I don’t know what to tell you about the white folk that do not understand why that alone is reason to protest the song.

It was written by a racist/white supremacist of the highest order.

In his 50s, Key was named by President Andrew Jackson as the U.S. district attorney for the nation’s capital, where he aggressively prosecuted race and slavery laws to the fullest extent, even seeking the death penalty. He also targeted abolitionists for prosecution.

Key pursuaded President Jackson to name his brother-in-law, Roger Taney, to the Cabinet and then chief justice of the United States. Taney and Key were close friends before Roger met and married Key’s sister. Taney authored the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court opinion.

Key’s brother-in-law wrote, “[African-Americans] had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order … and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”

Black folk… Francis Scott Key and his brother-in- law Chief Justice Roger Taney did not fuck with Black people. Yet for many whites, the reasons for black protests during the anthem are incomprehensible.

It is somehow considered “disrespectful” for Black people to protest the white supremacist Key and his racist anthem…

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” has more than one verse. The second half of the third verse is as follows:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Key’s lyrics are intended to taunt and threaten the African-Americans who took the British up on their promise of freedom and land in exchange for fighting American troops. It should be noted that the British kept their word, refusing the United States’ demand that formerly enslaved African-Americans be returned. Instead, the British provided them land in Trinidad and Tobago to resettle with their families. Their descendants, called “Merikins,” still live there today.

Maguire, like tens of millions of white Americans, is incapable of facing the reality that everything about “The Star-Spangled Banner” — its lyrics, its author, and the manner in which it became the national anthem — is inextricably bound up with America’s horrific history of racism.

The young men on the Penn basketball team have a constitutional right to protest and make statements. As a society, we have to protect everyone’s right to protest, even young Black Ivy league basketball players. We have come a long way since Key’s brother in law claimed otherwise as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Lucas Monroe, Penn Guard

As reported by Jensen, Jordan Dingle, Lucas Monroe, Ed Holland, Jelani Williams and the rest of the Penn team discussed their experience in this country as Black young men. Through those conversations, Williams said they identified “a bunch of stuff” when asked about motivating factors for the anthem protest.

One suspects that there is significant overlap between Maguire’s conceptualization of American “shortcomings” and the “bunch of stuff” referred to by the players. Two hundred and forty six years of brutal chattel slavery on armed labor camps, another century or so of Apartheid-like Jim Crow, federally directed infiltration of Black organizations and elimination of Black leaders, decades of explicit discrimination in employment, housing, education, etc., overrepresentation in prisons, police brutality and murder of unarmed Blacks are just a few of the “shortcomings.” The Penn kids are transitioning to adulthood and trying to make sense of the world they confront and it’s complex history.

Jordan Dingle, Penn Guard (Photo by Kohjiro Kinno / ESPN Images)

I know Jordan Dingle’s father Dana, a three-year starter on some of John Calipari’s best teams at UMass in the early 1990’s. At UMass, Dingle and the Minuteman won four Atlantic 10 championships, one NCAA sweet sixteen, one elite eight and one final four from 1992-1996. These days Dingle is one of the mainstays of the NYC Grassroots scene as a Director/Coach with the New York Lighting Basketball Club.

I know Lucas Monroe. I’ve followed his progress since early in his freshman year at Abington High School. I also know his father, Raymond Monroe. I’ve watched Lucas evolve from a bright and inquisitive young boy to a thoughtful and passionate young man. As a sophomore, he’s been named Co-Captain of the team and he has assumed a leadership role on the committee charged with the task of forming a Philadelphia Basketball Hall of Fame.

I know Ed Holland, III. I know the entire Holland family, his mother, father and older brother. These are intelligent, warm and caring people that place a very high priority on education. I have had an opportunity to talk extensively with Ed III and Ed Jr. about education related issues.

These young men are ideal college-student athletes. Supremely gifted athletically, they are also blessed with exceptional intellects. Their maturity is evidenced by their presence on the Penn basketball team. Each of these young men were offered full scholarships to “higher level” basketball programs. These scholarships included things like cost of attendance stipends that are unavailable to Ivy League student-athletes. Yet, they chose the long-term benefit of the Penn education over the immediate tangible offerings of the big time basketball schools.

These are good young men. These are smart young men. These are socially conscious young men navigating the undergraduate educational process at one of the most academically competitive institutions in the nation. These young men have strong moral and ethical values that have been instilled by their families. Those that disagree with them should engage and communicate with them, not seek to suppress their activities.

These young men have chosen to silently and respectfully protest racial injustice in the United States of America by refusing to stand during a racist anthem written by a profoundly racist/white supremacist that clearly felt that Blacks have no rights which whites are bound to respect.

Maguire, like the infamous Aaron Jones, is telling Penn and St. Joe’s to “get down or lay down.” If they don’t do what he says, he will withhold his considerable largesse from these institutions. While I’m sure the University of Pennsylvania would rather continue to work with Maguire and the Maguire Foundation to support much needed projects, Penn will be just fine if Maguire cuts them off.

The Penn endowment totaling $20.5 billion as of June 30, 2021, is comprised of over 8,000 individual endowment funds benefiting the University’s schools, centers, and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn can keep the lights on without Maguire.

St. Joseph’s, on the other hand, is very much beholden to Maguire. St. Joseph’s endowment is 70 times smaller than the Penn endowment. As of 2020, their endowment was valued at $293.8 million. Maguires’ donations and contributions are far more crucial to future plans of St. Joseph’s. After all, he has has donated more than anyone else in the history of the university.

Shit could get real tricky here for St. Joseph’s.

I realize the University has stated the game will be played as scheduled. But, I also know they are holding on relevance as a college basketball program by a thread. Since firing Phil Martelli and his staff, the Hawks have an overall record of 13-43 (.232) and 5-25 (.167) in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Maguire’s public stance could make the road to back to relevance much more difficult to navigate for St. Joseph’s coach Billy Lange. Rumors about a major practice facility construction project for St. Joseph’s have been swirling for a while. St. Joseph’s has always been able to count on Maguire to support projects of this ilk.

Seems like St. Joseph’s may be placing future Maguire Foundation support at risk if they allow the Black players at Penn to silently protest the racist song written by the white supremacist.

Maguire wants St. Joseph’s and Penn to suppress Ed Holland, III’s and the other Quakers’ right to protest racial injustice, police brutality and police murders. A year ago, Billy Lange was trying to convince Ed Holland to play basketball at St. Joseph’s.

Tricky… Tricky… Tricky…

St. Joseph’s is one of the few remaining Division 1 institutions in the Mid-Atlantic regions that has never had Black person serve as Head Men’s Basketball coach, Women’s Basketball coach or Athletic Director. The manner in which the St. Joseph’s administration deals with Maguire’s request is being closely watched.

Penn, on the other hand, put a Black man in charge of the athletic department 42 years ago. Charlie Harris, hired at the age of 29, was the youngest person to be named Athletic Director at an Ivy League School with his appointment. He was also the first ever African American to serve as an Ivy League Athletic Director (1979).

Thirty-Nine years ago, in 1982, Penn hired Craig Littlepage, a Black Man, to coach the Men’s basketball team. In 2009, Penn hired Jerome Allen to coach the men’s basketball team. Penn has zero (0) issues with their basketball players silently protesting the anthem.

Maguire has put St. Joseph’s and Penn on notice… Get down or lay down… Two very different schools, two very different histories of inclusion in the athletic departments…

Penn has long been at forefront of providing opportunities for Blacks. Penn gets it… As far back as 1896, the great Black sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois was appointed as an assistant instructor at Penn and began his investigation of the Seventh Ward of Philadelphia—research that he would turn into his groundbreaking work, “The Philadelphia Negro.” In 1979, Penn hired the a Black man to lead the Athletic Department. Subsequently, on two separate occasions, Penn has hired a Black men to lead the Men’s basketball program. Currently, Penn is providing its Black male basketball players with the institutional cover and intellectual space to necessary to conduct highly visible silent protests during the playing of the national anthem.

I can really see why talented young Black male basketball players want to attend the University of Pennsylvania.

St. Joseph’s may find out that “Shut up and Dribble” is not a very effective sales pitch to elite Division 1 basketball prospects. Maguire, the biggest Hawk, doesn’t want Penn’s protesting Black players on St. Joseph’s campus. Another question is sure to arise: Why would talented Black players with options want to attend St. Joseph’s and live and study on the Maguire campus?

12 responses

  1. Like so many white English descendants of Colonial America, Ben Franklin set U of P on the enlightened path of Inclusion without prejudice. In addition his school is one of the highest endowed schools in the USA. Financially able to lead by example and history. When U interviewed Ben did he strike U as enlightened and without prejudice.

    When U interviewed Maguire did he come across as bigoted, and insensitive to racial issues? Or is just his love of country and traditions that make him suspect? Francis Scott Key, “C’mon Man”!

    Due to Maguires philanthropy, thousands of people, all colors and creeds have been lifted up without prejudice. How does he stack up against Ben?

    If U disagree with someones point of view or an institutions lack of social awareness as U see it, U are history’s final judge.

    Racism comes in all flavors. Look in the mirror?

    • Ben Franklin acknowledged that he was a racist/white supremacist… See quote below… Additionally, Franklin owned two Black slaves, George and King, who worked as personal servants, and his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, commonly ran notices involving the sale or purchase of slaves and contracts for indentured laborers… Should I believe Franklin’s acknowledgement or your denial?

      “The English make the principal body of white people on the face of the earth. I could wish their numbers were increased. And while we are, as I may call it, scouring our planet, by clearing America of woods, and so making this side of our globe reflect a brighter light…why should we in the sight of superior beings, darken its people? Why increase the sons of Africa, by planting them in America, where we have so fair an opportunity, by excluding all blacks and tawneys, of increasing the lovely white and red?”

      –Benjamin Franklin, Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind (1751)[2]

  2. Pingback: Mega-Donor, James Maguire, Ask St. Joe's To Uninvite Penn Hoops Team Because They Sit For Anthem - This Is Lower Merion And Narberth

  3. I really enjoyed this piece; let’s see what happens tomorrow. People only seem to be for change when it is free. The message that SJU sends goes just the athletes, what does it say to the students, staff and faculty?

  4. All of you can shut the fuck up! If these disrespectful kids don’t like what is going on in America, leave! America gave these punks the opportunity to get an education and play basketball.

  5. Mr. Maguire does not have to be correct (in other people’s eyes) to withhold his money for any reason. Just because he has been generous does not obligate him to continue to be so. SJU does not have to take his money. But he has every prerogative to attach any strings he likes. He’s an American.

  6. James Maguire has probably provided more financial assistance to inner City (Philly) youth than any other person. Since he sold Philadelphia Insurance, which he started himself, he has given away over $500 million dollars via The Maguire Foundation (which gives scholarships to children that need financial assistance). He is a great American and a great Philanthropist. Because he cares so much about the students he supports, he called Penn and SJU and told them his Foundation was going to continue providing scholarship money. We should all be careful not to make judgements about people based on what we read in the media.

    • Mr. Maguire is a fine man… No doubt… The essay was in response to the “open letter”… I can feel that Maguire is a great man and disagree with his attempt to silence dissent by college student-athletes.

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