Atheist group: Clemson football proves that pious does not mean moral

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In spite of — or perhaps due to — its religiosity, the Clemson football program is in trouble as it gears up for the national championship Monday night.

Many people are questioning Head Coach Dabo Swinney’s ability to teach his students character after reports of racial slurs and videos of Clemson players grabbing their opponents’ genitals.


Under Swinney, the football program at Clemson, a prominent public university in South Carolina, is overtly religious. The team has had a Christian chaplain. Players have been baptized in team facilities. And, as part of an annual “church day” event, the entire team and coaching staff attend a religious service.

Swinney uses his position of considerable power to impose his personal religion on players, often under the guise of character education. FFRF has long opposed these measures and has worked to protect the rights of students who cannot speak up without jeopardizing their position on the team.

With religion imposed from the top down, observers might expect the players to behave like altar boys and be upstanding citizens. So why are Clemson players clutching their opponents’ genitals and hurling racial epithets? Because religion does not equate to morality or build moral character.

Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins went out of his way to grab an opposing player’s groin in a game last Saturday against Ohio State.


Watch the clip here:


Later, another player, linebacker Ben Boulware, said, “That’s something we’ve done all year just to mess with players.” Boulware did say that he and his teammates normally try to be “more discreet about it.” 

Swinney shrugged off the genital grabbing as “goofy” and “silly.”

Sports Illustrated reports that in late November, players from the University of South Carolina, which has its own problems with imposing religion on players, accused Clemson players of using the N-word: “Multiple South Carolina players say Clemson players called them racial slurs during Saturday’s game, something Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said was ‘absolutely false.'”

South Carolina wide receiver Terry Googer, who appeared upset after the game, tweeted: “Never thought I would hear so many racial slurs in my life!! Classless is not a strong enough word to describe the actions!” 

All of this indicates a deep problem in the Clemson football program.

“Dabo Swinney’s insistence on using Clemson to promote his personal religion is clearly not teaching these students how to behave morally,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, author of a recent book pointing out all the immorality in the bible, “God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction.

It also reveals the dubiousness of equating religiosity with morality.

“This just proves that piety is no predictor of moral behavior,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “If anything, religion gives people a license to commit immoral acts in the name of their god.”

For more on the impact of coach-imposed religion on the rights of student athletes, see FFRF’s comprehensive “Pray to Play” report. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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