A groveling apology from a professor who simply called for more college football, which is apparently racist

September 30, 2020 • 10:15 am

What follows is one of the most ridiculous and embarrassing instantiations of wokeness I’ve seen anywhere, much less in colleges.

If you want to see the equivalent of a full, self-abasing confession in the religion of Wokeness, then read the second article below from Inside Higher Ed. When I initially read it, without reading the forerunner article, I thought it was a joke—so over the top and groveling was it.

But it wasn’t at all a joke. It was from a professor who had written a pretty innocuous article (with a grad student co-author) on the education website, an article that simply called for college football to resume (with proper pandemic precautions) as a way of bringing people together. Though I’m not a fan of college football, it didn’t ruffle my feathers a bit, as I know many people—especially Ohio State fans—are rabid addicts to college football.

It turns out, though that the first author, Matthew Mayhew, must have been inundated with emails and social-media posts, as well as a letter to Inside Higher Ed by another professor (below), all claiming that Mayhew’s position was blatantly racist. It was not.

But read the pieces in order, starting with his pro-football editorial (with Musbah Shaneen). Click on the screenshot below. Here’s the description of the authors:

Matthew J. Mayhew is the William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher Professor of Higher Education at Ohio State University. He has published more than 75 peer-reviewed articles in journals and is a co-author of How College Affects Students: Volume 3. Musbah Shaheen is a Ph.D. student in higher education and student affairs at Ohio State and a research assistant in the College Impact Laboratory.

In their article, Mayhew and Shaheen simply argue that football is something that can bring diverse people together in a time of trouble. For example:

Although many concerns remain about the health and safety of players and spectators, we happen to agree: college football may be an essential element of our functioning democracy. Here’s why.

That’s way over the top, for democracy in America would do just fine without football, but Mayhew really means that football narrows the divisions between people:

Essentializing college football might help get us through these uncharacteristically difficult times of great isolation, division and uncertainty. Indeed, college football holds a special bipartisan place in the American heart.

At a time when colleges and universities have been placed under extreme scrutiny, many people are questioning the very value and purpose of higher education. College football reminds many Americans of the community values that underscore higher education and by extension America itself. One Wolverine does not have to know another one by name — but the sight of maize and blue accompanied by “Hail to the Victors” unites anonymities through these shared experiences.

. . .This election season has demonstrated how stifled, polarized and dangerous our political differences have become, and college football can remind us of respect — even in the wake of deep disagreement. We can root for different teams, scream at the players, argue with the refs and question the coaches, but win or lose, at the end of the day, we leave the stadium, watch party or tailgate with a sense of respect for the game and the athletes that train so hard, leaving it all out on the field every time. Indeed, if a player is injured, the entire stadium usually applauds, not just fans from one team.

Deep difference doesn’t have to lead to disrespect.

The authors add that athletes shouldn’t risk their lives to entertain fans, and that strict enforcement of pandemic guidelines are needed.

And that’s pretty much it. Nothing is said about black people or race save for this statement that isn’t racist at all:

In addition, football players become beloved community figures beyond the boundaries of the stadium or campus. Football gives players a platform to make statements about issues they care about. We have seen student athletes taking part in protests and making demands for racial equity. We have seen student athletes kneel to protest police brutality. Colleges and universities should take many more steps to empower athletes to engage with the community. Depriving them the opportunity to play doesn’t accomplish that goal.

In other words, canceling football deprives players of the chance to make statements against police brutality and for racial equity. In what sense is that racist?

Yes, the original article is a bit silly, and pretty anodyne, and should have passed in silence. But something happened, and Mayhew immediately tendered a long and groveling apology on the site, castigating himself repeatedly as a racist. Read his ludicrous, back-whipping apology and see if you can figure out how the first article got him canceled:

Some of the apology (it embarrasses me to even reproduce Mayhew’s statements, but this is only a small bit of his groveling:

I recently led a piece in Inside Higher Ed titled “Why America Needs College Football.” I am sorry for the hurt, sadness, frustration, fatigue, exhaustion and pain this article has caused anyone, but specifically Black students in the higher education community and beyond.

I am struggling to find the words to communicate the deep ache for the damage I have done. I don’t want to write anything that further deepens the pain experienced by my ignorance related to Black male athletes and the Black community at any time, but especially in light of the national racial unrest. I also don’t want to write anything that suggests that antiracist learning is quick or easy. This is the beginning of a very long process, one that started with learning about the empirical work related to Black college football athletes.

Rather than make excuses, I should talk about which facets of the article that I have recently learned are harmful — through my students, wider social media community and distinguished academics like Donna FordJoy Gaston Gayles and Gilman Whiting.

I learned that I could have titled the piece “Why America Needs Black Athletes.” I learned that Black men putting their bodies on the line for my enjoyment is inspired and maintained by my uninformed and disconnected whiteness and, as written in my previous article, positions student athletes as white property. I have learned that I placed the onus of responsibility for democratic healing on Black communities whose very lives are in danger every single day and that this notion of “democratic healing” is especially problematic since the Black community can’t benefit from ideals they can’t access. I have learned that words like “distraction” and “cheer” erase the present painful moments within the nation and especially the Black community.

Then the self-castigation begins, and oy, is it embarrassing!

Upon such beginnings of reflection, I have also learned that my love for Black athletes on the field doesn’t translate into love within the larger community — that I have been dismissive of Black lives in moments not athletically celebrated. I have learned that I have taken pleasure in events that ask Black athletes to put their bodies on the line and take physical risks. I have been entertained by Black men who often are conditioned by society and structural racism in ways that lure them into athletics where the odds of making it are slim to none.

I am just beginning to understand how I have harmed communities of color with my words. I am learning that my words — my uninformed, careless words — often express an ideology wrought in whiteness and privilege. I am learning that my commitment to diversity has been performative, ignoring the pain the Black community and other communities of color have endured in this country. I am learning that I am not as knowledgeable as I thought I was, not as antiracist as I thought I was, not as careful as I thought I was. For all of these, I sincerely apologize.

I know it’s not anyone’s job to forgive me, but I ask for it — another burden of a white person haunted by his ignorance. To consider the possible hurt I have played a role in, the scores of others whose pain I didn’t fully see, aches inside me — a feeling different and deeper than the tears and emotions I’ve experienced being caught in an ignorant racist moment.

It goes on way beyond this, with thanks to those who helped professor Mayhew understand his racism, and his “plan for antiracist change”. My response: nobody was harmed by your fricking words. If they said they were harmed, they were either lying or need help. 

Reading the original letter again, I still couldn’t understand this wailing, weeping apology, but then I found that Andrew McGregor, a Professor of History at Dallas College, had written a letter to Inside Higher Ed called “Mythic, misguided view of college football.” McGregor happens to be white, but that’s no bar to virtue-signaling, which McGregor does big time in his letter. Sure, Mayhew was over the top in claiming that college football is an essential part of American democracy, but McGregor whips him over and over again by asserting, falsely, that college football is instead “a symptom of the deep-seeded issues that have contributed to political polarization, racial unrest, the devaluation of education, and prolonged devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (By the way, the term is “deep-seated,” not “deep-seeded”.)

But how did college football become so nefarious?  McGregor argues that the lucrative nature of football has debased the intellectual mission of colleges, and that some college coaches, like Dabo Swinney, make unfounded statements about science and history. Well, I won’t wade into that morass, and can’t be arsed to look it up anyway, because that argument is irrelevant and can’t explain Mayhew’s fulsome apology.

No, McGregor argues that football by its very nature is racist because it demands that black athletes put their lives on the line to entertain white folk:

Amateurism and the very structure of college athletics is caught up in the United States’ system of racial capitalism. The problems of COVID-19, police brutality, and the policies currently being enacted by our political leaders all have a disproportionally larger impact on racialized folks. So too does college football. As the recent decision by a grand jury in Louisville reminds us, the status quo does not value Black Lives above apartment walls. For the Power Five, and apparently the authors, Black Lives Matter insofar as they are on the field playing an inherently risky game. In this regard, they are right: resuming college football is in line with America’s “democratic” tradition.

. . . Black athletes are embraced on the gridiron and in the community as a way to assuage white guilt.

WTF? Assuage white guilt?

And that’s about it.  No matter that both blacks and whites play together on college teams, that a football scholarship is a way for disenfranchised minorities to get an education, and that it’s also one of the only routes to becoming a player in the National Football League: a way to get success and big money in sports. Sure, most college players don’t get that call from the NFL, and we can argue about whether college players should get paid for their efforts and how much “education” football players really get. But none of that is relevant to McGregor’s accusations of racism against Mayhew. McGregor is just spouting off to show that he’s a deacon in the Woke Religion.

Here’s a photo I got when I Googled “Ohio State football team 2019). The team won against the Washington Huskies in that year. The team looks pretty integrated to me, though clearly black players are represented in a proportion higher than among the general population (and surely than among students).

It’s not clear how much pushback Mayhew got from other people, but I’m sure he was inundated with emails and social-media criticism. McGregor’s letter alone doesn’t seem sufficient to elicit such a bout of groveling and tooth-gnashing.

Had I been Mayhew, I wouldn’t have responded to McGregor at all, as no response was needed. Instead, Mayhew has crumpled, spouting mea culpas as he goes down. Like so many, he was so stricken when called a racist that he immediately confessed to Father Kendi.

The rest of us should pity Mayhew. The whole affair is laughable, save that Mayhew has been devastated and, indeed, may have had his career derailed. We shall see. But so long as people like Mayhew grovel, truckle, and beg for forgiveness for an innocuous statement, then so long will the Woke continue their tactics of demonization. As John McWhorter said, it’s time to either ignore or mock these jokers (I’m referring to McGregor, not Mayhew).

Matthew Mayhew, now toast

h/t: Eli


70 thoughts on “A groveling apology from a professor who simply called for more college football, which is apparently racist

  1. It really was disgusting. I was waiting for something like “I promise to use my time in menial labor to reflect how I have harmed the revolution, and to help purge counter-revolutionary thoughts from my mind. When my rehabilitation and re-education has been completed, I plead that I will be given another socially useful position.” to crop in there someplace…

    1. Exactly! It smacks to me of the Cultural Revolution and the rituals of humiliation. What is this–a DIY Cultural Revolution?

      1. Exactly! I came in here to echo your words. We’ve heard this socially-induced self-flagellation before. I sincerely hope this is not just the beginning!

      2. Exactly! I came in here to echo your words. We’ve heard this socially-induced self-flagellation before. I sincerely hope this is not just the beginning!

    1. No there really isn’t. Is he really this much of a fool and a sap? Perhaps there is real fear. Not of violence, but he has gotten the message that his very career is at stake. He may have a family or life situation he is terrified of losing.

      But probably not. Most likely he’s simply guzzled the Woke Koolaid.

      All for saying that going to college football games might be good for the community. What a world.

    2. Whatever thought crime Mayhew committed, he didn’t deserve a public whipping.

      But if I had made the same “transgression” and had to choose between abasing myself and saving my university teaching job in order to support my family (who all depend on my income), I’d do it. I’m not a sap or a fool, and I doubt Mayhew is either. The simplest hypothesis is that he’s trapped by woke colleagues at his university who would get him fired if they could and demanded he put on the hair shirt.

      1. I doubt that Mayhew could have been fired for his editorial, as it was innocuous. Given that he’s pretty safe, he shouldn’t have groveled. What he was avoiding was criticism, not the danger of being fired.

        1. Yes you’re right we don’t know what threat he faced. Maybe he would not be fired. I’m arguing against readers here insulting him (“sap”, “fool”) based on his response to threats we don’t know about.

          1. I stand by my characterization of him. He can explain his foolishness if he is so inclined and if it turns out there are extenuating circumstances that would force him to abase himself in such a way, then I’ll amend it. Not that anyone cares what I think.

            His initial piece and his grovelling apology are right there for us to see; a sap and a fool.

          2. Meh. He does get some well deserved props in the press. From an article cited below;

            “We must hope that the new America is populated by men of his character and fortitude, rather than by the rest of us here on Planet Earth, who have never read anything so stupid in our entire lives.”

            Mayhew may be under pressure we don’t know about, but he owns the nonsense we do know about.

            I do regret one thing though, spending so much time evaluating this. It’s one small story in a far wider catastrophe.

          3. I think he deserves criticism but not ridicule. This is an epidemic. It’s difficult now to say “Look, are you sure you are right to fall on your sword like this?” What was embarrassing in the first instance is unbearable to backtrack on. But there needs to be some push back on the victims as well as against the perpetrators so that more people can be made to question this ideology instead of instantly adopting it.

  2. A while back I witnessed a similar self-flagelation performed by a neighbor on Facebook. It wasn’t even in response to any particular event. Truly bizarre stuff.

  3. The ‘harm’ trope again, grr. Who actually reads an article like that and feels ‘harmed’ afterwards? Not many, I’d bet- except people who want to find something to perform their wokeness about. Also, as is usual with the woke, the picture of minorities they paint is bigoted in itself: oh look, here’s a platitudinous article about football, BLACK PEOPLE ARE SO FRAGILE AND WE MUST PUNISH THE AUTHOR FOR SHATTERING THEIR POOR LITTLE HEADS. I’m sure most people in minorities of all stripes don’t feel that way, and putting it like that shows the utter (racist?) condescension inherent in wokeness.

    Gimme a break!!

  4. The apology is so over the top that I couldn’t stop to wonder if it’s not actually an ironic response to some crazy Wokes’ demands who he may have received.

    But apparently as shockingly, it seems to be meant totally serious.

    1. That was my first impression also. I found it hard to believe that any individual would self flagellate so bloodily. Had to be a “back at you”. If he’s being sincere, I wouldn’t trust anything he tried to teach me. The man has no credibility.

  5. … I know many people—especially Ohio State fans—are rabid addicts to college football.

    That’s The Ohio State University, boss; those Buckeyes are very particular about the definite article in the school’s name. Hell, the Ohio General Assembly even passed a law making it official.

    I know because I’ve got a bunch of relatives who are OSU alums — my brother and a pack of cousins from both sides of the family included, and I’m forever breaking their chops about it.

    1. Speaking of Oklahoma football, how about that University of Oklahoma and what Kansas State has done to them now two years in a row. It could almost be a comedy if they were not so serious.

    2. I guess that’s as opposed to “AN Ohio State University,” which I guess COULD be a legitimate descriptor of any State University in Ohio…

      IS there another Ohio State University?

      I ask this as the son of a University of Michigan alumnus.

        1. Once upon a time I flew from n Lansing, MI to Chicago for a conference. The plane was full as I recall. I sat next to a man who ultimately asked me where I was from. We were in the air. Probably crossing the big lake. He became very agitated as MSUvsOSU was on the current calendar and all whether football oriented or not ( I’m not) and of possible opposition should be disposed of promptly.
          He actually frightened me. I think he would have pushed me out the window if he could.

      1. Someone copyrighted OSU because they didn’t or something like that. To prevent further intellectual property struggles, they added The to the name and legally protected the hell out of it. I may have skipped a few steps but basically that’s the story.

          1. Let me edit this a bit. The problem is that OSU is used by several universities such as Oklahoma State or Oregon State so to distinguish themselves, they added The. I don’t know if they were having any rights issues anywhere but now the have exclusive rights to this one.

          2. Reminds me of how some scotch whisky companies prepend “The” to their names. The Dalmore. The Macallan. I asked someone at a “non-The” distillery about the practice. He said it was just a gimmick to make the product seem more upscale.

    3. Whenever a supporter of the university in Columbus insists on the definite article, I always thereafter refer to the school as TOSU, pronounced “toss-ooo.” They love it. Then talk about the time you saw the band do “script The” at halftime and how your trombonist cousins crossed the T, a great honor. Also ask if they know the words to “Carmen The.”

  6. I suspect there is a healthy blend of hatred for white people in general mixed with hatred of college sports. For some reason college sports, football in particular, brings out the nastiness in some people. They sneer at athletes and pretend they don’t know the name of the sport and call it “sports ball” or something. Add to that the deep inveterate racism of the Woke and here we are.

    It’s all just so puerile but the grovelling by this fool of a professor is stomach churning.

  7. It is hard to say which person here needs the most help but surely both are in need of something. Wasn’t it Donald Trump who said he is responsible for bringing back football. Not sure if he means professional football or the farm teams we refer to as college football. Anyway Mayhem is likely in need of mental health work so I hope he gets it. We seem to be moving from one cult to another and the cult of football is pretty extreme. The life and death struggles around football are more closely related to extreme and fatal head injury than to this pandemic.

  8. I, for one, was offended – nay, HARMED, deeply and with immeasurable possible effects on my future wellbeing – by the fact that a professor of History doesn’t know the term “deep-seated” and that no one editing at INSIDE HIGHER ED for crying out loud caught and corrected it. Cheese and crackers!

  9. That’s pretty crazy. The left is truly eating it’s own, when an activity (sports and sports scholarships) that was seen just a few years back as a door-opener for the poor and minorities to help them get to college is now vilified because (AFAICT), a white man is supporting it.

    Though I have a feeling that this may also be part of the reason for the negative blowback:

    college football holds a special bipartisan place in the American heart

    Bipartisanship, cooperation, working together with people you politically disagree with is, I suspect, exactly what the woke movement doesn’t want. It’s very hard to dehumanize your opponents when those old time liberals are bringing people together. Not to mention, it’s really hard to convince people that opposing speech physically and mentally hurts when people of opposing political factions are having successful conversations.

    Bipartisanship is almost an existential threat to wokeness, because it provides living, breathing, politically successful examples of something they claim can’t be done.

  10. I have occasionally been irritated by people saying it, but now I wish more people would just use the expression, “WhatEVER!” when they receive this kind of criticism for something thoroughly innocent, preferably with a full-on, teen-level, crossed-arms eye roll.

        1. What it exactly it is that one has been given to think about is also not expressed. You’ve given me much to think about (in particular, I’m thinking you are a silly group-think fool. And a bully).

    1. I know a female minor member of the British aristocracy who, in response to boring or long winded stories, tends to say to the speaker ‘How interesting ‘ in a certain tone of voice. The speaker may or may not get it but listeners in the group if they are at all acquainted with the woman will well understand the put down.

  11. What the Woke seem to be saying to Mayhew: “How dare you issue a public statement that tangentially involves Black people without making anti-racism its main theme?” Perhaps it is time that everyone issue an apology like Mayhew’s and be done with it. As I have been saying for some time, we really need our “I am Spartacus!” moment.

    1. I also don’t see how the suggested title “Why America Needs Black Athletes” squares with the notion of black bodies being put at risk for his our our own entertainment.

  12. It is good to know, as Professor Mayhew was taught, that “distraction” and “cheer” are on
    the list of forbidden words. We must now be careful to avoid them, along with such other forbidden things as the term “color-blind”, the African role in the slave trade, the existence of sex chromosomes, the whole of Mendelism-Morganism, and much else which is
    counter-revolutionary and Запрещено.

  13. Typo: “Had I been Mayhew, I wouldn’t have responded to Mayhew at all…”

    I think you meant to say, “I wouldn’t have responded to McGregor at all.”

  14. Holy sh*t…..

    (1) Is this a Poe??

    (2) When I was a little kid (5? 4? I forget) my parents took me to a Marian Anderson concert. Shame on my White parents for taking a little White kid and teaching her that Black singers exist for the entertainment of little White kids, and that Black people are forced to teach those little White kids to be racists. And that goes for Paul Robeson, too, whom I heard not all that long after hearing Marian Anderson.

    Shucks, I think of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino…am I a terrible racist for liking their music?

    (3) Do Black people like it when White people grovel and apologize? Some decades ago I apologized to a Black woman for feeling White Liberal Guilt. She did NOT want my guilty apology or my stupid White Guilt and handed my ass to me.

    Quite some time after that I blew it and said something inappropriate to a different Black woman. It would have been the right thing to say to a White person. But it didn’t work when said to a Black woman, and I hurt this woman.

    She said nothing, and finally after some weeks she approached me. She’d been carrying the hurt and it stayed with her. This was a different kind of apology situation. It was not a wallowing in General Allover White Guilt. It was a one-on-one restoration of a good relationship, and we BOTH benefited. Nobody had to be the shameful bad guy. We both wanted to be friends.

    But this awful article is humiliating and self-abasing! Do Black people really want to see White people groveling in the mud?

    (4) Are we *sure* this isn’t a Poe?

    1. Bear in mind that much of the more extreme anti-racist calling out comes from white people who call themselves woke. Self flagellating white people who, if you believe the theory, are just as blinded by invisible privilege as any of the rest of us. Overcompensation is the logical result. But we’re supposed to accept that they are seeing the invisible signs and hearing the inaudible dog whistles. I have seen many examples of black people saying “We are laughing our asses off at you ridiculous people”, and I’m inclined to think that happens more often than not.

  15. “The whole affair is laughable”

    For some of us, that includes college football itself. There are, or were, stories in the math research community of professors being pressed to pass academically hopeless athletes in math courses so as not to negatively compromise the team’s success.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *