OMAHA, Neb. — Five Creighton men’s basketball players explained in a short pregame video Saturday why they were hurt by coach Greg McDermott’s remarks in his locker room talk following a loss last weekend.
A sixth player who didn’t speak in the video, star guard Marcus Zegarowski, said after the 93-73 win over Butler that even though McDermott made a mistake with his choice of words, he loves and supports all of his players.
McDermott twice used the term “plantation” as part of an analogy urging team unity. The university suspended McDermott indefinitely on Thursday, after he had coached in a Wednesday loss at Villanova. Assistant coach Alan Huss was interim head coach for the Butler game.
“I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation,” McDermott told the players after a loss at Xavier on Feb. 27, using a term evocative of slavery and the antebellum South.
Creighton players hadn’t commented publicly about McDermott’s remarks until five Black players spoke in the pregame video at CHI Health Center.
“James Baldwin said not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed without being faced,” Christian Bishop said at the start.
Shereef Mitchell then said, “For slaves, life on a plantation was filled with mental, emotional, physical, psychological and sexual abuse. You were owned as property and not human. Slaves had no rights and no voice. They were branded like cattle, forced from their homeland and stripped of their culture, language and basic human rights. They worked 18 hours a day six days a week. Any sign of wrongdoing such as lack of productivity, not following instructions or resistance would result in beatings or death and that is why…”
“What Coach Mac said hurt me and my teammates,” Denzel Mahoney said.
Antwann Jones then said, “People speak about inequalities and equalities but don’t truly know what it means to be equal. And I feel like this is the start for a new conversation to be had in the future. Let’s continue to educate each other and let’s continue to grow.”
Damien Jefferson said, “If I was your son, would it matter then? Let’s not be OK with racism. Let’s start the conversation.”
The video ended in silence with all the Creighton players locked arm in arm on the court.
Afterward, “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, was played.
Neither team was on the court for the national anthem.
Zegarowski, unprompted, praised McDermott for the impact he has made on him since he arrived on campus and that the coach’s locker room remarks shouldn’t define him.
“A lot of guys in that locker room were hurting from it, and I was hurting from what he said,” Zegarowski said. “At the same time, coach Mac has been a huge mentor for me and I know he would take a bullet for me and everybody in that locker room, including the coaching staff.
“I know he made a really bad mistake with what he said. Only I know everything he’s done for me as a player, but more important as a human being. He loves me, he loves everybody in that locker room. That’s my coach, I love that dude. People make mistakes, and that’s my guy.”
McDermott publicly apologized Tuesday and again Wednesday. Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen said additional sanctions were under consideration, none of which would be made public.