Rashad Milligan, Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Published 7:50 p.m. CT April 4, 2020 | Updated 9:37 p.m. CT April 4, 2020
When Mississippi State football player Fabien Lovett saw Mike Leach’s tweet with an image that joked about a woman knitting a noose for her husband, the defensive lineman sent a screenshot to his dad.
Lovett was upset and even publicly reacted to the tweet Wednesday night on his Twitter account, typing “wtf.”
The next day, the father and son discussed the coach’s meme and the player’s future in Starkville. Lovett next talked with members of the Mississippi State coaching staff.
On Friday, Lovett’s father, Abdual Lovett, had decided his son should leave the program and the 6-foot-4, 310-pound athlete agreed he was done at Mississippi State. Lovett filled out the necessary paperwork through the university and announced his decision to transfer on Twitter.
The father said he questioned Leach’s ability to lead because he says “whatever whenever.”
“I didn’t feel comfortable with my son being down there with a guy like that from a leadership standpoint — that you can just throw anything out there,” Abdual told the Clarion Ledger on Saturday. “I feel if he can do it, the kids are going to feel like they can do it.”
The Mississippi State athletic department declined to comment on the situation and the comments of Lovett’s father.
Leach had deleted the tweet and posted an apology on his Twitter account for anyone who found the post offensive. For Abdual Lovett, the public apology, which came a day before his son entered the transfer portal, was too little, too late.
“If you did [feel sincere], you would be trying to address your team, your kids that have an issue with this,” the father said, adding that multiple players were bothered by the meme.
One of the Mississippi State coaches sent Leach’s number to Abdual Lovett so the two could talk, but the father didn’t want to reach out to Leach.
“If he was sincere about it, he should at least call me instead of it being the other way around,” he said of Leach. “At least text my number if you can’t call me. He hasn’t called, unlike these other coaches who are trying to recruit [Fabien].”
Non-story or fireable offense?: Opinions vary drastically on Leach’s noose tweet
‘We all want the same thing’: What Mike Leach told players in first visit
Although many people viewed Leach’s meme as a joke about marriage, Abdual Lovett said a noose carries a negative connotation in the eyes of many black people in America.
According to the NAACP, Mississippi had the highest number of lynchings in the country from 1882-1968 with 581. In that time period, black people represented 72.7% of the victims in the United States.
Fabien Lovett, who has stayed in an apartment in the Starkville area during the COVID-19 pandemic, had not talked to his dad about transferring from Mississippi State before Leach’s meme, his father said.
Leach was hired in January to become Mississippi State’s head football coach after the program fired Joe Moorhead. Fabien Lovett, a former Dandy Dozen and Olive Branch graduate, was recruited to Starkville by former head coach Dan Mullen, then Moorhead.
‘A dictatorship’: Former Washington State player criticizes Mike Leach
The father and son had great respect for both coaches, and the consensus three-star recruit committed to play for the Bulldogs.
“Mississippi State was my first choice for him to go to,” Abdual Lovett said. “I thought better of Mississippi State, and I thought they would’ve handled this situation a little bit better than how they have handled it. I’m disappointed for even pushing my son to go there, and for this to happen.”