Juwan Howard accepted the punishment, took full responsibility
for his actions, made no excuses and apologized to everyone who was
I caught up with his former Fab Five teammate Ray Jackson to
discuss the incident, the callings for him to be fired, the
punishment handed out and the public backlash by Dick Vitale and
others, as well as who Juwan Howard is as a coach and a
Etan: What were your thoughts after seeing what
took place after the Michigan/Wisconsin game? I saw your Facebook
post saying you definitely supported your former Fab Five teammate,
but what was your reaction to seeing so many people calling for
Juwan to be fired immediately?
Ray Jackson: "People calling for him to be
immediately fired definitely wasn’t surprising. I always felt that
they never loved us and we had no room for error. But, they never
look at what’s prompting us. There has always been something
attached with the presence of the Fab Five and what Juwan Howard
brings, what he stands for, what he represents, his knowledge, his
experience, and they’ve let that boil over way past common respect.
To be honest, the entire way they approach the game is different
when they coach against Juwan.
"I’m not saying Juwan’s reaction was right, let me be clear, but
the other coach (Greg Gard) should have never put his hands on him
in the first place; he should’ve never grabbed him or stopped him.
He should’ve walked past him, gave him the brush by, said he’s
gonna remember that and kept it moving. They are going to suspend
Juwan, but Coach Gard definitely needs to be held accountable for
his role in this too."
Etan: So, let’s talk about this for a minute,
because I agree. there is no reason for a coach to grab another
coach like he’s a child. Like you said, he grabbed him and stopped
him. Juwan was walking past him. He initiated everything.
Jackson: "But here is the issue, E — a big
Black man putting his hands on a white man in America is one of the
scariest things white America can see. And it’s always been like
that. So, no matter what they do to us, how wrong they are in
whatever they do, we can not be aggressive back as a response. They
want us to always remain passive. No matter what. When I saw how he
grabbed Juwan, the first thing I thought was, 'I wonder how many of
his players he grabs like that regularly? Is there a reason why
Wisconsin only gets a certain kind of Black players? But Juwan is
not a boy, he’s a full grown man, and you can’t approach a man like
a boy period."
Etan: And then, the assistant coach (Joe
Krabbenhoft) came over, and it didn’t look like he was trying to
de-escalate anything. I would’ve thought the assistant coach
would’ve come over and been more concerned with pulling his players
back, but it looked like — at least from the angles of the video —
not only was he talking smack to Juwan, but he actually put his
hands on some Michigan players.
Jackson: "You are absolutely correct in your
assessment. You saw what I saw, E. And I’m going to keep saying it:
Juwan has these white coaches feeling a certain type of way about
him. He was one of the only Black coaches for awhile; he came in
getting recruits, all of the praise, all of this notoriety. They
didn’t feel he was qualified for the position in the first place.
Remember, a few media people simply echoed publicly what many of
the actual coaches were saying privately and amongst themselves. So
that all was a problem for him.
"Yes, he’s put five guys in the NBA. But more than that, he has
developed a culture where he cares about the players beyond what
they can do on the court, so they have a different level of respect
for him. Not to mention all he has done for the program as a whole.
So no, one situation or reaction, I'll say, from Juwan doesn’t put
a black eye on the totality of Juwan Howard, nor should it."
Etan: Glad you brought up the black eye,
because it’s interesting how this keeps coming back up. I
interviewed all of you for my book, "We Matter: 'Athletes And
You all talked about how much the media was always coming down
on y’all. Saying that you all were putting a "black eye" on the
University of Michigan as a whole, on the alumni, on the entire
NCAA; that expressed sentiment kept coming up in all of your
interviews. So I know how much that bothers y’all. And now, I’m
hearing that kind of talk again after this situation, so i’m
thinking... there was this doctor at Michigan who was charged with
sexually abusing students.
Jackson: "You’re talking about Dr. [Robert E.]
Etan: Yes, and Michigan had a $490 million
settlement for thousands of student-athlete victims that were
abused — not allegedly abused, but actually abused — by this cat
who was the athletic team doctor for decades, between the years of
1966 and 2003. And they hardly talked about that. So
that’s not a "black eye" to the university, but y’all
wearing baggy shorts and black socks was a "black eye?" This
situation with Juwan coming to the defense of his players, of being
accosted by this coach — this is a "black eye?"
Jackson: "I see you’re going there today. But
you’re absolutely right again. They hardly talked about that. They
paid the lawsuit and swept it all under the rug and just didn’t
really talk about it. There was one little series that came on TV,
but that was really it. And for it to be as egregious of a crime as
it was? Yeah, I can’t disagree with anything you said. No Michigan
student, nobody’s child should’ve ever been exposed to a clown like
that. He preyed on children. That whole situation was just
"But yeah, that seed of resentment toward us, that seed was
planted when we were 17, 18-year-old kids at Michigan. So they
always couldn’t wait for us to do something wrong so they could
pounce on us. We weren’t allowed [to make] mistakes, we had to be
perfect. Juwan should’ve never been put in that position to have to
control his emotions. A coach grabbing you? Pushing your players?
That just doesn’t happen, and they can’t pretend that that’s normal
Etan: You know it’s interesting, a few people
on Twitter — and I suspect they were Michigan State fans — but they
tweeted me an old article I wrote back in 2019
about Tom Izzo abusing and bullying a player on his team, Aaron
Henry. And they were saying mockingly, "If Tom Izzo is a bully and
a coward, what does that make Juwan Howard?" And saying, "Are you
going to publicly condemn Juwan’s actions?" Etc.
Jackson: "I remember that article, and yeah
they were pissed when you wrote that, but those are two completely
different situations. One is with a coach in a power dynamic over a
teenage college player, and the other is man-to-man. You can’t even
compare the two. Besides you writing that article, I don’t think
Izzo received an enormous amount of criticism after that happened.
But this is what it boils down to: They’re okay with old, white men
doing exactly what Izzo did to Aaron Henry. They can verbally
abuse, mishandle our babies [and] chastise our young men or young
Etan: They were definitely okay with Bobby
Knight’s abuse for years.
Jackson: "Right! But that image of a Black man
doing anything aggressive toward a white man, that’s why you see
the reactions that we were seeing to immediately fire Juwan. I even
saw some on social media say arrest him. Then use language like,
'He physically assaulted him,' or 'attacked' him. First of all, if
Juwan wanted to, he could’ve laid Coach Gard and Krabbenhoft
completely out. He opened his hand, so let’s not put too much on
this. He slapped him. Not saying it was right, but that’s what he
Etan: And, I didn’t want to say anything about
Dick Vitale — and everyone has been praying for him with his battle
with cancer, and his emotional videos so we’re all pulling for him
— but his immediate tweets were so targeted and his language was so
menacing. I was like, "Is he tweeting this from the hospital bed?"
I just commented on one of his posts that I was keeping him in my
prayers a week or so ago as he was showing himself going into
surgery. I don’t know, I was just shocked seeing his tweets.
Then, after Juwan did his initial address to the media
explaining what happened and why he was upset, Vitale followed up
with another tweet.
And I was just like "Whoa, be a real man?" Juwan
Howard’s actions must lead to severe punishment? Mocking him saying
he was defending himself? Why all that, and from the hospital bed,
Jackson: "Well, going back to our college days,
Dickie V and Bill Walton were two of the first ones to call us all
thugs. All of us. Me, Jimmy [King], Juwan, Chris [Webber], Jalen
[Rose]. They labeled all of us. Our mothers and fathers and
grandparents and family had to hear that. We were thugs? Because we
had a different style and swag with us? So that came as no surprise
to hear him say that now. And I haven’t heard anyone call him out
on it and don’t expect to. So thank you for saying something.
"But Juwan owned up to everything — apologized for his reaction,
took all responsibility — but none of the other parties involved,
who caused the chain of events to take place, were held
accountable? Why was Juwan the only one who got suspended?
Gard’s little $10K fine isn’t a punishment. Why didn’t they suspend
the other coaches like you suspended Juwan, especially when he was
coming to the defense of his players? Gard and Krabbenhoft didn’t
even apologize like Juwan did. People wanna talk about being men
and owning up to what you did, but that only pertains to one
Etan: That’s ridiculous, and people are still
saying Juwan got off light and should’ve been fired.
Jackson: "I see it too. I was reading a few
articles this morning, and yeah, that’s just absurd. That's why I
appreciate what you do. There are so many folks still calling for
Juwan to be fired, and to be honest, I was worried. I spoke to
C-Webb the night it happened and he was worried too, because we
know they’re waiting for any reason to throw the book at Juwan, and
we know why. But hopefully, everyone can put this story and this
issue behind them and we can move on, and Juwan can get back to
continuing to do an amazing job as the head coach of the Michigan
Wolverines. But he shouldn’t have been the only party held
accountable for what took place."
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