Two professional football players joined Clemson University students’ calls to remove the name of John C. Calhoun, a United States vice president during the early 19th century, from the university’s honors college due to Calhoun’s legacy as a slave owner and proponent of slavery.
Clemson is built on the land that used to be Calhoun’s plantation, where he enslaved 70 to 80 black people, according to the university’s website. Reclaim and Rename, a student-led group pushing for university leaders to rename the college, “revived” the campaign, the Greenville News reported. The group's effort is being reignited as student activism against racial injustice continues in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by Minneapolis police. A petition on Change.org started by Reclaim and Rename urges the university to follow others that have removed the names of notorious slave owners, including Calhoun himself, from campus buildings.
Deandre Hopkins, wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals and a former Clemson football player, and Deshaun Watson, quarterback for the Houston Texans, who led the Tigers to a national championship in 2016, took to Twitter and Instagram to show support for Reclaim and Rename and share the group’s petition, which had more than 13,500 signatures as of June 9. The petition demands that the university rename the Calhoun Honors College “without further delays and excuses” and references a recent statement from President James Clements that states “racism, injustice, violence, brutality and hatred, in any form, cannot be tolerated.”
“To change the name of the college, therefore, is not to ‘erase history’; rather, it is to acknowledge that our understanding of history has evolved,” the petition said. “To maintain the name, on the other hand, is to convey Clemson University’s continued indifference toward a history of institutional racism and state-sanctioned violence against black life.”