You ever know a person over a long stretch who you really like, who you respect, who is smart and talented, who is an effective leader, who has helped others, who has demonstrated nothing but integrity in your associations with him and then …?
Morgan Scalley is that kind of person, is known as that kind of person.
And then, he makes national sports headlines for an ignorant mistake.
In the middle of a worldwide stir of increased awareness about treating people of color with equality and respect, about eliminating mistreatment of people of color, about seeking social justice for everyone, about black lives mattering, news arrives regarding Scalley, Utah’s defensive coordinator, using a racist slur in a text message. And thereby he is suspended by the school, pending further investigation, and you think, you must think in good conscience, the use of such a slur is nothing short of unacceptable.
You think, “What the hell, Morgan?”
Due process should take its course in this case, in every case.
But so should propriety, decency.
Scalley himself has admitted to the wrong without adding any detail and apologized for it. In a release issued by the university, composed by athletic director Mark Harlan, it is noted that the racist slur was texted by the longtime Ute assistant coach in 2013, that its use was being reviewed by an independent firm seeking further details and determining if this was “an isolated incident,” and that those investigators would come to some conclusion in an unspecified amount of time.
Scalley’s apology seems sincere. See what you think:
“In 2013 I made a terrible mistake. I used a racial slur in a text message. This language is offensive and hurtful to not only the African-American community, but to all. Immediately after sending it, I apologized to the recipient and his family.
“I am also heartbroken over the potential breach of trust with my fellow coaches, and with the young men in our program, both past and present.
“I am truly sorry, and I own up to the hurtful effects of my choice. Through my actions and words going forward, I will demonstrate that my use of that slur in 2013 does not reflect or define who I am or what I stand for. My action is indefensible and I will use my voice and position to bring about meaningful and much-needed change.
“I accept the university’s suspension, and will use it as a time to reflect on my insensitive comment from 2013 and how I intend to listen and grow from this situation. I am completely against racism, and this will never happen again.”
There it is.
Is that enough, to be sorry and to vow to do better from now on?
Accountability is important, and with that accountability comes consequences. People of color have been hearing apologies, sincere and not sincere, for a long, long time, hoping and crying out for real change — of attitudes and of actions. Nobody knows as of now what the review will reveal.
What we do know is that Kyle Whittingham is unhappy with the revelation, if he was uninformed of it before now. He said he was “disappointed and shocked” to learn of the text.
Either way, this part of his statement hits the mark: “Although this incident is inconsistent with the character and conduct of the person I have known and worked closely with for more than two decades, Morgan’s use of racist language is a very serious matter and I am supportive of the suspension while a more thorough outside review is conducted.”
Which is to say, Whittingham — and those associated with him — is doing what we all should do: not stand silent when any form of racism emerges, whenever it emerges, however it emerges.
The consequence, depending on what the review finds, is the complex part of the deal. If Scalley used the slur once, and only once, does he get fired? Should he? If he used it twice? Three times? More?
There are those who will make excuses for him. There are those who will defend him. There are those who will want him gone. There are those who will wonder how a coach known to have used such a slur can maintain credibility with and around a team that prides itself on its diverse makeup. There are those who will suspect if a coach used that term once, he will have used it before and after.
It was Ben Franklin who famously said: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
Warren Buffett added: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
All those who have made mistakes in racism’s ugly realm, whatever their form, whatever their number, now is the time to think and do things differently. Take it from Morgan Scalley, authentic change to the absolute core is the proper order of the moment, for the moment and a million moments to come.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.