Clemson coach Dabo Swinney will no longer attend a fundraiser held by a conservative South Carolina organization after receiving considerable backlash from gay rights groups, Clemson students and the South Carolina House minority leader.
The Palmetto Family Council planned to honor Swinney and “South Carolina defenders of religious liberty” at a fundraiser on June 2, the event invitation states.
On its website, the Palmetto Family Council states its vision is to “transform the culture in South Carolina by promoting the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model, and sexual purity.” It also boasts being involved in “South Carolina’s Partial Birth Abortion Ban, the defeat of Video Poker, preserving marriage as between one man and one woman, defending religious liberties (i.e., school prayer, release time, etc.), and many other issues.”
Sponsorship donations for the fundraiser range from $500 to $5,000, and tickets cost $50.
Swinney said in a statement that he has no association with the Palmetto Family Council and, after receiving considerable backlash, said he will not attend. He said he believed his attendance at the event was solely to honor his All In Foundation, whose mission “is to raise awareness and health issues in order to change lives of people across the state of South Carolina.”
“I appreciate the recognition of my and the foundation’s efforts,” Swinney said. “However, after much thought, in order to avoid a distraction for the team and the entire football program, I’ve decided it is in the best interests of all involved that I not attend the event on June 2.”
Reese Boyd III, Chairman of Palmetto Family’s Board, said the group’s intent was to honor Swinney’s accomplishments and the work of his foundation. “We understand Coach Swinney’s reluctance to engage in, or respond to, petty political attacks, and we certainly appreciate his principled leadership on and off the field. We will continue to promote his good work and recognize others that do the same.”
The event will go on as scheduled.
On Tuesday, GLAAD vice president of programs Zeke Stokes, a South Carolina native, was among the many who asked Swinney to withdraw from the event.
“Coach Swinney has an obligation to the players he leads and all students who attend Clemson to use his considerable profile to promote causes that bring us together, not tear us apart,” Stokes said. “The Palmetto Family Council’s values are out of line with the values of love and acceptance for all people, and I hope the coach will reconsider the message that his alignment with them sends.”
Clemson student William Ta’oma started a petition on change.org asking Swinney to withdraw, and 1,391 had supported the online petition as of 2:30 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Ta’oma wrote the Palmetto Family Council’s “views and actions help to create and maintain a culture of hostility to LGBTQ people.”
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