Clemson players: Fear of punishment from Dabo Swinney for skipping White House visit unfounded

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Dabo Swinney encouraged, but didn’t threaten players with punishment if they skipped Clemson’s White House visit, players said. (Getty)
Dabo Swinney encouraged, but didn’t threaten players with punishment if they skipped Clemson’s White House visit, players said. (Getty)

On Tuesday, The Root reported that 15 of Clemson’s 57 black players from their national championship football team attended the Jan. 14 White House visit that came complete with a spread of fast food.

The rest reportedly declined, with anonymous players citing President Donald Trump, “racism” and “disdain for Trump’s divisive politics” as the reason.

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Players confirm several black players skipped visit

On Wednesday, the Charleston Post and Courier cited a team travel roster that confirmed that 58 of the 74 attendees of the White House visit were white and that the only black starter out of 15 to attend was cornerback A.J. Tarrell.

Brothers J.D. and Judah Davis told the Post and Courier that they both declined the visit, but more for a scheduling conflict as they are training with their sights set on the NFL.

The Davis brothers also said that there was no direct pressure from head coach Dabo Swinney on players to attend that included threats to playing time or scholarships.

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Some players reportedly worried about punishment

Sources in The Root report noted that the black players who did attend were predominantly young and fighting for playing time, insinuating that they believed that not attending would result in a penalty.

From The Root report:

“Not saying anything against the players who went,” the junior explained, “but if you look at who went — freshman and people fighting for playing time—you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

Two Clemson players confirmed that several black players skipped the team’s White House visit while calling fear of retribution from Dabo Swinney “absurd.” (AP)
Two Clemson players confirmed that several black players skipped the team’s White House visit while calling fear of retribution from Dabo Swinney “absurd.” (AP)

Judah Davis: Punishment fears ‘absurd’

“There was no talk of losing playing time or losing your scholarship,” Judah Davis told the Post and Courier. “That’s just absurd.”

Judah Davis did, however, say that Swinney encouraged all players to attend to present a united front.

Swinney’s made his stances clear

Swinney has referenced his views on religion and politics in public, often citing God and the Bible in his public appearances while echoing Trump’s rhetoric on NFL social justice protests during the national anthem, telling reporters in 2016 of activists “some of these people need to move to another country.”

But according to J.D. Davis, any fear that declining to attend would result in retribution from Swinney was unfounded.

“Every year in camp, coach Swinney talks about how none of that will affect your playing time,” Davis told the Post and Courier. “Your political views, what your faith is, this is one of his quotes: ‘It’s not his job to put the best Christian on the field. It’s his job to put the best football players on the field.'”

“It doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist or a Christian, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. None of that is going to affect your playing time.”

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