DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson join petition to remove John Calhoun’s name from Clemson

Update: Clemson University has renamed the John C. Calhoun Honors College to Clemson University Honors College. The university has also restored Tillman Hall to its original name, Main Building (commonly known as “Old Main”). This comes after public pressure from many in the community, including former football stars Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, to have the name taken off public buildings around campus.

“Our Trustees’ leadership today sends a clear message that Clemson University intends to be a place where all our students, employees and guests feel welcome,” Clemson president Jim Clements said. “Our work in this area is far from finished, but we are committed to building on the progress we have made in the areas of diversity and inclusivity as we strive to serve our entire state and the nation.”

Original story (June 9)

Former Clemson stars DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson have joined a petition to remove John C. Calhoun’s name from the university’s honors college. The two players shared a link to the petition on Twitter with Hopkins adding on Instagram, “I felt this oppressive figure during my time at Clemson and purposely do not mention the University’s name before NFL games because of it.” 

The Change.org petition states: “Clemson’s Honors College was founded in 1962, but Calhoun’s name was not added until 1981. 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. 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. South Carolina’s Heritage Act says nothing about the names of academic programs. It was a choice to rename the Honors College in 1981, and it remains a choice now.” 

A South Carolina native and longtime politician of approximately 40 years, Calhoun served as the former vice president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson from 1825-33. He was an “ardent believer in white supremacy” according to Clemson’s own website, and owned roughly 70-80 slaves on his Fort Hill Plantation, where the campus is built. 

Hopkins and Watson attended Clemson from 2010-12 and 2014-16, respectively, and are two of the best football players to ever suit up for the Tigers. They were teammates on the Houston Texans before Hopkins was traded to the Arizona Cardinals this offseason. 

Clemson’s football program has come under fire recently in the wake of George Floyd’s murder on May 25. According to former tight end D.J. Greenlee, Tigers assistant Danny Pearman used a racial slur in speaking with him during a 2017 practice. Pearman, who is white, claims he was repeating the word he heard from Greenlee, who is black. 

On Monday night, coach Dabo Swinney released a 14-minute message during which he recounted the Pearman incident. “There are a lot of things I don’t allow in our program but when things happen we deal with it,” Swinney said. “Sometimes it’s in private, sometimes it’s in public. This particular case the player came to me in private and we handled it in private.” 

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