This coach was just suspended for a racially insensitive comment. He says he was quoting scripture
Was Texas Tech coach Mark Adams being racially insensitive, scriptural or both?
This article was first published in the State of Faith newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Monday night.
Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Mark Adams doesn’t shy away from citing scripture when he’s meeting with his team. He did so recently as he encouraged a player to be more receptive to coaching, referencing Bible verses about workers, slaves and others submitting to their masters.
“I said that in the Bible that Jesus talks about how we all have bosses, and we all are servants,” Adams told Stadium about the conversation. “I was quoting the Bible about that.”
School officials agree the coach was trying to use the Bible to teach a basketball-related lesson. But they also believe Adams’ comments were “inappropriate, unacceptable and racially insensitive,” which is why they’ve suspended him amid an ongoing investigation.
“Upon learning of the incident, (Director of Athletics Kirby) Hocutt addressed this matter with Adams and issued him a written reprimand. Hocutt subsequently made the decision to suspend Adams effective immediately in order to conduct a more thorough inquiry of Adams’ interactions with his players and staff,” explained a statement released Sunday.
In his interview with Stadium, Adams denied that his comments were racist, noting that his goal was to use a Bible story to help his team.
He added that he has not apologized to his players, rejecting the part of Texas Tech’s statement that claimed that he did.
“I explained to them. I didn’t apologize,” he said.
The unfolding conflict at Texas Tech is the latest in a long line of controversies stemming from a coach’s comments on faith. Just last week, I wrote about how Deion Sanders’ habit of praying at work has created a legal headache for the University of Colorado, which hired him this winter.
What makes the Adams situation unique is that the scriptural references that led to his suspension were once commonly used to describe the relationship between athletes and their coach, as scholar Paul Putz pointed out on Twitter.
“One of the most influential books from the past 50 years written for Christian athletes/coaches makes precisely this move,” he said in his tweet about Adams’ remarks. “It cites 1 Peter 2:18 and encourages Christian athletes to be a ‘doulos (slave) athlete,’ and even to visualize themselves chained to their coach.”
In his tweet thread, Putz noted that applying the scripture in that way was “fraught with racialized dynamics” from the beginning, since high-profile sports have long involved a predominately white group of coaches working with a predominately Black group of players. But he noted that the author of that influential book was focused on what he (the author) felt was the “plain meaning” of the Bible.
If you read the Stadium interview, it seems clear that Adams, too, thinks people are focused on the wrong aspect of his lesson. He hasn’t apologized because, in his mind, he was simply applying biblical wisdom to real life.
I’m struck by how difficult it likely will be for Texas Tech to resolve this situation. It seems easier for a school to say, “Hey, you shouldn’t be referencing the Bible in conversations with your players” than “You’re referencing the Bible the wrong way.”
The school will also have to balance the demands of its investigation with the demands of the basketball season, which has reached a pivotal moment. Texas Tech is about to play in the Big 12 tournament, which begins Wednesday in Kansas City.
Fresh off the press
This Jesus-focused ad campaign isn’t done with sports
Colorado hired coach Deion Sanders. Religious freedom conflict followed
‘Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state,’ says New York City mayor
Place of the week: Joshimath, India
Joshimath, India, is a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus and Sikhs. Located in the Himalayas about 6,200 feet above sea level, it’s home to about 20,000 people, according to The Associated Press.
“Joshimath is said to have special spiritual powers and believed to be where Hindu guru Adi Shankaracharya found enlightenment in the eighth century before going on to establish four monasteries across India, including one in Joshimath. Visitors pass through the town on their way to the famous Sikh shrine, Hemkund Sahib, and the Hindu temple, Badrinath,” the article said.
Today, the future of Joshimath is at risk as major construction projects create environmental challenges. Hundreds of homes have become uninhabitable after cracks emerged when the land began sinking under the weight of new developments.
An Associated Press team visited the city as part of an ongoing project investigating environment-related threats to sacred sites. I’m looking forward to learning more.
What I’m reading ...
Last year, I wrote about Simran Jeet Singh’s book on Sikh wisdom and how it was helping me cope with a difficult news cycle. Last week, Singh offered me valuable advice yet again through a Substack post about the power of gratitude.
As FBI agents refocus their work on the threat of white nationalism in the United States, some have begun raising alarms about conservative Catholics, according to the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Catholic columnist for Religion News Service. His recent piece on these investigations asks whether its appropriate for the FBI to openly express concerns about a faith group or whether that work is actually a form of anti-religious bigotry.
Odds and ends
Since becoming one of the most famous “Jeopardy!” champions of all time, Ken Jennings has built a career out of doing many interesting things at once, including writing books. My husband and I enjoyed listening to his book, “Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids,” during a road trip this weekend.