Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press
Creighton junior forward Christian Bishop, sophomore guard Shereef Mitchell, senior guard Denzel Mahoney, sophomore guard Antwann Jones and senior forward Damien Jefferson each took part in a pregame video Saturday that served as the players’ first public remarks following news that head coach Greg McDermott had used a racially insensitive analogy to attempt to promote team chemistry following a loss.
Per Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald, the video was shown before the Bluejays’ 93-73 Senior Day win over Butler.
It aired one week after McDermott told Creighton players that they needed to “stay on the plantation” after a 77-69 road loss to Xavier on Feb. 27, ending a four-game winning streak.
Three days later, McDermott issued a public apology on Twitter.
McDermott has since been suspended indefinitely from all team activities, per a statement from Creighton director of athletics Bruce Rasmussen. The coach publicly agreed with the suspension on Twitter while acknowledging that he made a mistake.
The black-and-white video featured all five players making remarks one-by-one.
“James Baldwin said not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed without being faced,” Bishop said, per the Associated Press.
Mitchell added, per the AP:
“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…”
Mahoney finished Mitchell’s sentence with: “What Coach Mac said hurt me and my teammates.”
Jones then provided his remarks, per the AP: “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.”
Jefferson looked directly into the camera for the closing comments, per Nyatawa, who said that the senior was “perhaps addressing the divided reaction to this week’s news among fans and community members.”
“If I was your son, would it matter then?” Jefferson asked. “Let’s not be OK with racism. Let’s start the conversation.”
The video then ended in silence, and the players on-court were shown locking arms. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was also played in CHI Health Center Arena.
After the game, Marcus Zegarowski spoke about players’ reactions to the analogy while also providing his support for McDermott.
“A lot of guys in that locker room were hurting from it, and I was hurting from what he said,” Zegarowski said,” per Nyatawa.
“But at the same time, Coach Mac, he’s 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.”
Zegarowski added: “That’s my guy.”
McDermott, 56, has been Creighton’s head coach since 2010. His last game with the Bluejays was on Wednesday in a loss to Villanova. The suspension was handed down Thursday, and Al Huss served as the interim coach Saturday.
Creighton will play next on Thursday against a to-be-determined opponent in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.