Let’s talk about that letter to Kevin Sumlin.
If you’ve been living in a cave, you may not have heard that last week, a note was mailed to the home of Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin and posted by his wife on Twitter.
Following a brutal upset in their opening game to UCLA, the coach was under fire and there was talk, as is common when a coach has a losing streak, that his contract could be terminated this season.
The letter posted by Charlene Sumlin, however, crossed the line.
“You suck as a coach,” the letter said, followed by a racial slur. “Please get lost! Or else.”
Charlene’s tweet pointed out that one of the Sumlin children could have opened that letter. She added, #orelseWHAT?
Obviously, it was “racist garbage,” as has been eloquently pointed out by numerous journalists, fans and trolls.
Everyone can agree that the letter was inappropriate, horrible and racist. We can argue the merits of whether Sumlin’s wife should have posted it and drawn attention to the coward who sent it. We can argue over whether the author of the letter used a fake return address. Oddly enough, the return address used was 1 Potomac Drive in Houston, which is about a block from my home. I’d even venture to guess that, based on the scrolling cursive script, the author of the note was a female. But none of that really matters.
The lesson to be learned here is that football is a game. Kevin Sumlin is a human being with a beating heart and children who probably think he’s the coolest guy in the world. He’s had the good fortune to lead the Aggies to some victories, and some losses, and he’s dealt with some negative publicity along the way.
This won’t be the last time a coach is criticized for losing a game that should have been an easy win. But we do have to remember he’s a person.
I attended a sportswriter training workshop a couple of years ago and one of our speakers was a high school football coach. He talked to us about his preferences on when he likes to do interviews, how he prefers to provide quotes and where we can get our stats. Then he said something I’ll never forget.
“If we’ve just lost a home game, and it was a brutal loss, and we had a player carried off the field on a stretcher, that may not be a great time to shove a microphone in my face,” he said. “At that moment, I’m thinking about how I’m going to have to put my house on the market. I’m thinking about how my daughter is going to have to finish out her senior year in another district. I’m worried that – once again – my wife is going to have to find a new job, a new house and make new friends in a new town. I’m worried about paying next month’s utility bill. That’s not a good time to ask me why my wide receiver choked.”
It’s OK to “bleed maroon” and to be a die-hard fan. It’s not OK to threaten someone and attack their race. I’m not saying Kevin Sumlin deserves a lifetime supply of hugs and rainbows, but he does deserve to be treated respectfully, not because he’s a college football coach, but because he’s a person. Period.
April Towery is the managing editor of The Sealy News. She can be reached at 979-885-3562 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.