Creighton Suspends Greg McDermott Over ‘Plantation’ Pep Talk

Greg McDermott, the coach of Creighton’s men’s basketball team, has been suspended on the eve of the N.C.A.A. tournament after he admitted telling his players they needed to “stay on the plantation” in a postgame speech.

McDermott admitted making the comments in the locker room on Saturday after the 14th-ranked Bluejays’ 77-69 loss at Xavier. McDermott, by his own account, told his players: “Guys, we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation.”

He coached the Bluejays on Wednesday night, a 72-60 loss at No. 10 Villanova, and the university announced the suspension on Thursday. In his virtual postgame news conference that night, McDermott admitted making “an awful mistake” but declined to answer questions about his insensitive remarks.

“The pain that I caused our players, who look to me as a mentor and as a leader — the pain that I saw in their eyes — was immense,” he said.

The length of the suspension was not disclosed, but initially it will include the team’s final regular-season game — the Bluejays’ Senior Day — on Saturday against Butler. After that game, Creighton will travel to New York for the Big East championship. At 17-8 and ranked in the top 25, it is projected as a No. 5 seed in the N.C.A.A. tournament, which begins in two weeks.

Creighton’s athletic director, Bruce Rasmussen, said in a statement announcing the suspension that McDermott’s remarks were “not in alignment with Creighton’s commitment to racial equity, diversity and respect.”

“Further sanctions remain under consideration, not all of which will be shared publicly,” Rasmussen said. McDermott reposted the statement on his Twitter account and said he would accept the suspension.

“I made a mistake and I own it,” he wrote.

Asked after Wednesday’s game against Villanova about his remarks to the team or any potential punishment he faced from the university, McDermott declined to respond.

On Tuesday, McDermott had apologized for using a “terribly inappropriate analogy,” which he said he immediately recognized. He said he had never before used that analogy, with its allusion to slavery.

McDermott said that he had offered to resign but that his players had declined. “If they would have chosen to have me walk away, I would have walked away, but that is not what they wanted,” he said in a radio interview.

Creighton’s players have not spoken publicly about McDermott’s remarks. Damien Jefferson, who spoke with reporters after the Villanova game on Wednesday, said he would not answer any questions about the incident.

But Terrence Rencher, the only Black assistant coach on McDermott’s staff, said the word “plantation” had a “dark and hurtful history.”

Like many teams this season, Creighton has been involved in promoting racial justice efforts. The players have the word “equality” and a Black Lives Matter patch on their uniforms.

But amid rising player activism and awareness, college sports has had repeated incidents involving racist comments by coaches. Last June, a fencing coach at St. John’s was fired after a video surfaced in which he made derogatory remarks about Black people. In October, Pat Chambers, the men’s basketball coach at Penn State, resigned after allegations were made that he had referred to a noose around a player’s neck.

And in January, a football coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga lost his job after smearing Stacey Abrams and the state of Georgia in a tweet that perpetuated unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, comments that his university’s chancellor labeled “hateful, hurtful and untrue.”

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