|Jefferson County tax collector|
The University of Missouri, it seems, is not the only Southeastern Conference school where racism and football collide. Is Missouri the only school where football players have enough social conscience to stand up to racism that mostly white administrators tend to tolerate? The answer to that question might be revealed in the coming days.
For now, the power of college athletes is on full display after yesterday's announcements that the president and chancellor of the University of Missouri would resign after football players threatened a strike over the administration's tepid response to several incidents of racism on campus.
Missouri, however, hardly is the only Southeastern Conference school where racism among moneyed boosters and administrators (mostly white) hovers over the activities of athletes who, in big-money sports such as football, increasingly tend to be black.
At the University of Alabama, for example, a Jefferson County political figure, while a guest in the private box of prominent trustee Paul Bryant Jr., used the "N word" to refer to players from both teams while looking down on the action at a packed Bryant-Denny Stadium (named, in part, for Bryant's father, the late Hall of Fame coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.)
The political figure was Jefferson County tax collector J.T. Smallwood, and he made the comment to youth minister Matt Pitt and several of his associates, who had been invited to watch a Crimson Tide game from Bryant's luxury box. Pitt is best known for creating The Basement, which is billed as the "fastest growing youth movement" in America.
Part of Pitt's plan has been to build a ministry that embraces diversity and reaches out to young people of all colors and ethnicities. While viewing the Alabama game from Bryant's box, Pitt was stunned and sickened to see Smallwood look out over the massive crowd and state: "Can you imagine this many people pay us to watch n-----s beat up on each other?"
We reported on this incident in a post dated April 22, 2015. This is the first time we've revealed the speaker as J.T. Smallwood.
What led to Smallwood's grossly racist comment, inside the luxury box of Alabama's most powerful football booster? Here is the background, as we described in our earlier post, which focused largely on Pitt's legal problems that grew, on the surface, from an honorary sheriff's badge he received:
Pitt's troubles with law enforcement began when he refused to do the bidding of conservative political/corporate forces who wanted to use his ministry (The Basement) for their own purposes, sources tell Legal Schnauzer. Those forces allegedly include former Governor Bob Riley and University of Alabama trustee Paul Bryant Jr. Our sources say Pitt never would have been prosecuted if he had allowed his ministry to be used for the political and financial interests of others. They also say Pitt has made enemies from his desire to build a ministry that reaches across racial boundaries. . . .
Based on comments left at al.com, quite a few people in the Birmingham area hold animosity toward Pitt--for reasons I can't quite grasp. I can only attribute the ill will to possible jealousy or fear that The Basement will cut into membership figures at established churches. It also might be due to Pitt's efforts to build an inclusive ministry, one that reaches people of all colors, I've lived in Alabama long enough to know that the notion of races mixing in a religious environment makes many people uncomfortable.
Also, Alabamians have a long history of trying to bring down those who might try to separate the state from its ugly past. Is Matt Pitt the kind of person who might strike fear in those who cling to the Alabama of yesterday? I suspect the answer is yes. The Basement is billed as "the fastest growing youth movement in the country." And it reaches way beyond Alabama; I've seen pictures of Pitt preaching from coast to coast--in Colorado, Ohio, California, Texas, Missouri, New York, and many other states.
Pitt's success, sources say, caused powerful forces to want influence with his ministry:
Matt Pitt could be the next major, positive religious figure on the American scene, but Jefferson County prosecutors persist in pursuing him for a felony that he almost certainly did not commit--one that carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison.
What led to Matt Pitt's legal problems? Our sources point to three key events:
(1) Political figures, apparently with ties to Riley and Bryant, encouraged Pitt to use The Basement to endorse a slate of white, conservative political candidates;
(2) Business figures encouraged Pitt to do the ministry's banking with Bryant Bank;
(3) Pitt and a few associates were invited to attend a University of Alabama football game and sit in Bryant's private box. During the game, a Bryant crony was heard to say, after looking out over the packed stadium, "Can you imagine this many people pay us to watch n-----s beat up on each other?"
Pitt rebuffed the first two entreaties and was so disgusted by No. 3 that he decided to have nothing to do with Paul Bryant Jr. or his bank.
Before long, Pitt was in trouble with the law because of an honorary sheriff's badge that he never asked for--Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale gave it to him.
Smallwood reportedly played a major role in awarding the badge to Pitt. The name Smallwood has been familiar around Jefferson County, Alabama, for years. J.T. is the son of Tennant Smallwood, who served as a circuit judge for 44 years and died in 2011.
|Paul Bryant Jr.|
(from Bloomberg Markets)
Does that include serving as a sort of political "handyman" for Paul Bryant Jr.? Does that include spreading racist messages--which serve as the most vile kinds of insults to UA's own players--while situated in Bryant's private box? The answers appear to be yes.
University of Missouri football players have shown college athletes have the power to make a difference on social issues--in a hurry--when they have the guts to stand up in a united way.
Do University of Alabama players have those kinds of guts? We will see.