Mike Gundy, the head coach of Oklahoma State University’s football team, is in hot water. His crime? Wearing a One America News Network (OAN) branded t-shirt while out fishing.
This sparked the ire of Gundy’s star running back Chuba Hubbard. In response to the photo of Gundy’s fishing haul, Hubbard tweeted, “I will not stand for this.. This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it’s unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.”
A number of other players piled on to their head coach, pledging support and solidarity to Hubbard in his crusade against Gundy and a TV channel. OAN’s coverage has been sharply critical of Black Lives Matter in the past. One Yahoo Sports writer claimed that “Wearing a garment supporting OAN is basically akin to saying ‘Black Lives Don’t Matter.’”
OAN, the conservative cable news channel favored by President Donald Trump, has indeed had some gaffes with conspiracy theories. But one wonders if there would have been any outcry against Gundy for wearing a shirt promoting Rolling Stone or MSNBC. Perhaps it’s not so much about the errors and tone of a news organization as it is about the political direction the news channel leans? Would wearing a Rolling Stone shirt be basically akin to saying “due process doesn’t matter”?
For Gundy, the situation appeared to have quickly resolved itself. He met with Hubbard and some other players, and both coach and player hugged it out in a short video tweeted by the star running back.
Hubbard even apologized in the video for tweeting his objection to Gundy’s shirt instead of hashing out the issues man to man.
While the initial interaction itself was surprisingly positive, it’s troubling to note that a relatively thoughtful discussion is a surprise in today’s political climate. Where has the civility of American political discourse gone when we fully expect cancel culture to run riot, and are merely pleasantly surprised when it does not? Surely we should expect adults to be able to handle their differences calmly and collectedly.
In any event, Gundy later went into full-blown, fear-filled, job-saving apology mode. The meeting with the players was apparently a little more far-ranging than the video on Twitter made it seem.
“They helped me see through their eyes how the T-shirt affected their hearts,” Gundy said, according to ESPN. “Once I learned how that network felt about Black Lives Matter, I was disgusted and knew it was completely unacceptable to me.”
“I want to apologize to all members of our team, former players and their families for the pain and discomfort that has been caused over the last two days,” Gundy continued. “Black Lives Matters to me. Our players matter to me… I sincerely hope the Oklahoma State family near and far will accept my humble apology as we move forward."
Gundy was watching a cable news channel, not reading a collection of Der Stürmer articles. It is ridiculous to infer from his viewership of OAN that black lives don’t matter to Gundy, just as it would be ridiculous to say that all CNN or MSNBC viewers support infanticide. It also rings a little hollow that Gundy would be an OAN viewer without knowing some of that network’s stance on Black Lives Matter. This is most likely a contrived apology strong-armed out of Gundy by either his players or the administration at Oklahoma State University.
Gundy has spoken positively of OAN in interviews before, but in this instance he was simply wearing the shirt at a fishing expedition unrelated to university activities. If Gundy were forcing players to watch OAN that might present a problem, but in the current situation it seems more that the players were attempting to prevent Gundy from watching OAN in the privacy of his own home. To be forced to apologize for his choice of media is ludicrous, and flies in the face of the First Amendment and the founders’ intent for the American press.
Thomas Jefferson, in an 1804 letter to John Tyler, wrote very clearly on the purpose of press freedoms:
“no experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, & which we trust will end in establishing the fact that man may be governed by reason and truth. our first object should therefore be to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. the most effectual hitherto found is the freedom of the press. it is therefore the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions. the firmness with which the people have withstood the late abuses of the press, the discernment they have manifested between truth and falsehood, shew that they may safely be trusted to hear everything true and false, & to form a correct judgment between them. as little is it necessary to impose on their senses, or dazzle their minds by pomp, splendor, or forms. instead of this artificial, how much surer is that real, respect, which results from the use of their reason, and the habit of bringing every thing to the test of common sense.” [Original capitalization retained.]
Will Americans continue to shut up the news sources they despise and the people who consume them? Or will we at some point come back to a healthy respect for a freedom of the press?
If the Oklahoma State players do not wish to watch OAN, no one is making them. But to attempt to prevent their coach to have the chance to discern “between truth and falsehood” is contrary to the vision of America’s founders.