Here’s why Ed Reed’s tirade about Bethune-Cookman was out of line

OPINION: The issues HBCUs are dealing with are a complicated mix of causes and effects inevitably linked to years of racial oppression. And putting Bethune-Cookman on blast as Reed did isn’t the solution.

Former NLF player Ed Reed attends Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery if you’re the subject being copied. 

But it raises serious questions about the imitators who sadly try being someone or something they’re not.

Bethune-Cookman isn’t Jackson State and Ed Reed isn’t Deion Sanders. While they share similar characteristics — two HBCUs and two Hall of Fame football players — they’re both one-of-a-kind, each with their own distinct blend of strengths and weaknesses. 

Jackson State generated tidal waves of publicity when it hired Sanders as football coach in 2020. Coach Prime kept the flood coming as he snared the nation’s top recruit and other highly rated players who would have never considered HBCUs previously. The national attention was undeniable, though not guaranteed to last after Sanders left for a bigger job last December. 

Shortly thereafter, Bethune-Cookman announced that Reed was coming aboard as its football coach. He made a different kind of splash this week: Expletive-filled rants that drowned the school in negativity. 

”All our HBCUs need help because of the people who’s running them,” he said while driving to work in his first video post. “Broken mentalities out here. … I’ve been here a week and a half and have done more than people who’ve been here for freaking years. And I’m not even hired yet. Damn shame.”

That was tame compared to his next video post, apparently responding to pushback as he drove a golf cart on campus. 

“I’m out here walking with the football team picking up trash! I should leave,” he said. “I’m not even under contract yet. These motherfuckers didn’t even clean my goddamn office when I got here.” Pointing toward an area, he said “all this shit here was trash in front of me. Who you think got this shit cleared out? That building right there got trash in it; it’s fucking trash.” 

Undoubtedly at that moment, Reed and the school questioned their decision to hook up. 

Bethune-Cookman probably didn’t anticipate being dragged by a legendary college and NFL player with little coaching experience. And Reed might’ve expected a situation closer to what he experienced at the University of Miami, his alma mater. Since the hiring apparently isn’t official yet, it’s not too late for either party to reconsider. 

Warts and all, HBCUs are beloved but not for everyone. Even though we protested certain conditions, and I took part in one of those administration-building takeovers that occur every so often, NOTHING could top my experience at Howard University. But Reed isn’t a student complaining about his school on social media, which is perfectly normal and acceptable behavior. He supposedly is a leader of young men and the head of a high-profile department. 

He doesn’t have the luxury of acting like an angry teenager. Whether on his own or with assistance, he came to that realization Monday and owned his inappropriate conduct, issuing a “sincere apology to all BCU staff, students and alumni for my lack of professionalism.

“My language and tone were unacceptable as a father, coach and leader,” Reed said in a statement. “My passion for our culture, betterment and bringing our foundation up got the best of me and I fell victim while engaging with antagonists on social media as well. I am fully aware of the hard-working folks at our school who are also fighting to make things better and more financially sound. I am encouraged from my communication with my AD and our administration and understand it’s a work in progress. My passion is about getting and doing better and that goes for me, too.” 

I’d accept that apology.

Yes, a trash-strewn field, building and office are issues that needn’t be tolerated. But those are symptoms of a problem, not the problem itself. And putting Bethune-Cookman or any HBCU — on blast as Reed did isn’t the solution. Like virtually every issue facing Black people and our institutions, it’s complicated — an intricate mix of causes and effects that are inevitably linked to 400 years of racial oppression.

Yet, still we rise, in spite of clear and present obstacles. We’re not deterred by inadequate funding and sub-par facilities. Some of us (like Sanders and presumably Reed if he’s able), will depart for bigger and brighter situations. But that won’t stop the replacements from picking up the mantle, trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents whenever necessary. 

That’s part of the deal for HBCUs and Black folks in America. We don’t like the odds being stacked against us, but we continue to fight, battling external and internal forces to make life better, however, we can. Be it in the house or in the field, at PWIs or HBCUs, the struggles are real.  

Whether transformative change is the end result, Sanders had a positive impact on Jackson State during his tenure. Reed can do likewise at Bethune Cookman. 

If that means picking up garbage he didn’t create, so be it.

It comes with the territory.


Deron Snyder thegrio.com

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at blackdoorventures.com/deron.

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