Basketball coach Greg McDermott has apologised for "awful mistake" after using an analogy evocative of slavery with his student athletes.
McDermott, coach to the Creighton University Bluejays men’s basketball team in the US, told a radio station that he offered to resign for his ‘plantation’ comments.
“This is their team,” said McDermott. “If they would have chosen to have me walk away, I would have walked away. But that is not what they wanted.”
McDermott reportedly asked his players for permission to address the situation on social media on Tuesday, where he recounted the locker room speech in question.
“On February 27, after an emotionally tough loss on the road, I addressed our student-athletes and staff in the postgame locker room and used a terribly inappropriate analogy,” he wrote.
“Specifically, I said: ‘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.’”
McDermott said he spent three days speaking to everyone, from players to staff,a bout what happened.
“I immediately recognised my egregious mistake and quickly addressed my use of such insensitive words with the team,” he said.
“Over the last 72 hours, I have engaged in multiple difficult conversations with student athletes, staff, parents and University administrators and I realise the pain that my words have cause,” he added.
In a follow-up video apology, McDermott said he made an "awful mistake".
"The pain that I saw in their eyes was immense," he said.
Assistant coach Terrence Rencher called the history behind the word ‘plantation’ dark and hurtful.
“I am deeply hurt by his words. While my relationship with Coach has been positive and I have never witnessed any racist energy from him, what he said was wrong and insensitive. ‘Plantation’ had a dark and hurtful history in my community and cannot be overlooked," he wrote.
Senator Ernie Chambers was amongst those who reacted to McDermott’s words, calling for public discipline.
“I don’t think that’s a firing offense,” said Chambers. “But it is so devastating and hurtful. It didn’t hurt me. But there are players who look up to him, and even some white players. And coaches quickly become father figures. The harm that he did has to be matched by the type of public discipline. And I’m not going to say what that ought to be. It’s up to the university.”
McDermott later added that he is aware of the impact of his words.
“You hope in this world that one mistake doesn’t define you, but obviously this one is going to for me for quite some time. I hurt some people that are really, really close to me and that I care deeply about,” he said.