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QUOTABLE COACH: “Our Classroom is the Court, We Have to Educate Them”

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With today’s social climate, people are talking about past bigotry seen by Ewing, Georgetown

Big East Basketball Tournament - First Round Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

In the midst of the current social climate, Patrick Ewing spoke with The Athletic’s Dana O’Neill about his duties to teach based on the discrimination and hatred he’s witnessed in his career.

We’re not going to quote too much, because the article is well worth reading and subscribing to our friend Ben Standig’s employer (I believe there are free trials and discounts right now).

Here are some quotes from the article in The Athletic:

  • “I was young,’’ he told The Athletic on Friday. “There’s a lot of different things that happened, things I don’t want to get into.’’
  • He always said that he used the racist taunts as fuel, that he put his head down and let his play do the talking.
  • “The only difference is people are videotaping it now”
  • But in the weeks since, as he continues to convalesce and regain his strength, Ewing has been shocked — pleasantly so — by the response.
  • “We can have a huge impact,’’ Ewing says. “We work at a university, where it’s about teaching kids what they need to do in order to change things.

A few of the famous incidents of Patrick Ewing’s college tenure where chronicled in The Washington Post by Gary Pomerantz in a 1983 article titled “EWING UNDER SIEGE”:

At Providence nearly three weeks ago, a fan under one basket raised a sign that read, “Ewing Can’t Read,” and Coach John Thompson pulled his Georgetown basketball team off the court until the sign was taken down.

Nine days ago at the Palestra in Philadelphia, Villanova fans held up several similar signs. One raised bedsheet read, “Ewing Is An Ape.” A fan wore a T-shirt that read, “Ewing Kant Read Dis.”

And when Patrick Ewing, Georgetown’s 7-foot sophomore center, ran out for pregame introductions, someone in the Palestra crowd threw a banana peel on the court.

...

Others at Georgetown, however, want to discuss the subject. Silence, they say, will not solve the problem.

“It is cheap, racist stuff,” said Rev. Timothy S. Healy, S.J., president of Georgetown. “No one on the face of the earth can tell me if Patrick were a 7-foot high white man that people would still carry these signs around. I’m a white man and I know it. John (Thompson) is a black man and he knows it . . . This all strikes me as dreadful.”

“Sooner or later these kinds of things will cause a riot,” said Thompson. “Sooner or later, I’m going to tell my players to go up and get the sign and then see what happens.

“First of all, you cannot be responsible for every idiot who jumps up in the stands and wants to do it. But I have no tolerance for administrators who don’t do anything about it,” Thompson said.

A TIME Magazine article from the same year reiterated and condemned the racist messages, but used a headline of “Sport: A Banner Year for Meanness“ that missed identifying the bigotry:

The sophomore season of 7-ft. Georgetown Center Patrick Ewing has been a mean slide back to the hard times of Jackie Robinson. Signs along the way: at Providence College, EWING CAN’T READ; at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, THINK EWING! THINK!; in Philadelphia’s Palestra, EWING IS AN APE. When Ewing was introduced there someone in the crowd tossed a banana peel onto the court. T shirts and buttons have been manufactured bearing the slogan: EWING KANT READ DIS, which is also a recurring chant at the games. Not surprisingly, Patrick Ewing, 20, has had a few fights this year. Racism is not surprising. It pervade sports and life. But the overtness of ape banners and bananas on the floor is chilling.

...

Thompson has sheltered his star from the public and press. “I’m not going to make Patrick talk to someone if he doesn’t want to,” Thompson says, “and usually he doesn’t want to.” Though just a few words from Ewing might lower the banners, Thompson wonders, “Should it be up to him? We’ve received letters from people trying to rationalize the abuse, to justify it. ‘He should get used to it,’ they say. ‘It comes with the territory.’ Do we want a young kid to get used to this?”

The history is horrific but the future is promising. Aidan Curran of Hoyas247 has been researching the history of racial and social issues surrounding the Georgetown Hoyas, John Thompson, Jr., and Patrick Ewing.

As important today as any other day, it may be especially interesting for Hoyas fans who may not have been around during that time or have not read it before.

Casual Hoya has been updating a prior post as other Georgetown groups announce their support, including closely following the Georgetown Basketball Alumni group, led by Patrick Ewing, Jr., who are planning future steps for another meeting in a few weeks.

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HOYA SAXA