Urban Meyer — 210 days after he was suspended by Ohio State for mishandling allegations of domestic abuse involving one of his former assistant coaches — stood on a stage inside the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center at Grambling State University and spoke for nearly a half-hour during an event which honored the legacy of Eddie Robinson.
Think about that juxtaposition for a moment.
Meyer, whose last season at Ohio State was defined by a scandal of his own creation, was chosen as the inaugural guest speaker in conjunction with “Preserving the Eddie Robinson Playbook” festivities Thursday night.
Really? The first speaker?
Robinson was the standard by which all coaches, to this day, are judged in terms of integrity.
With Meyer — despite the national championship pedigree — he’s been forced to face questions about his own moral compass.
We can talk about how successful coaches, especially the ones who win at the highest of levels of sport like Meyer, are often uncomfortably lifted to deities despite all the ethical compromises many make to orchestrate the winning.
But that’s not the focal point in this instance.
Grambling inviting a white coach with a recent troubled past to address impressionable young black men and women at a historically black university is problematic because it perpetuates the white privilege Meyer has benefitted from.
This is a man who was allowed to continue coaching and retire on his own terms and later rewarded with an opportunity to instruct a class on “Leadership and Character” after recklessly bringing negative national attention and scorn to his employer.
A coach with a lesser resume and pedigree would have been swiftly discarded and ostracized instead of embraced like Meyer.
But because society routinely equates the splendor of achievement with righteousness, particularly with white men in positions of power, all transgressions are forgiven or simply ignored.
Grambling Athletic Director David Ponton and head football coach Broderick Fobbs should, as accomplished and respected black men, understand that if they carried the baggage of Urban Meyer, they wouldn’t be afforded similar opportunities to seek redemption or still be revered.
Certainly, those athletes wouldn’t if they behaved as unconsciously as Meyer did in Columbus.
The standard is woefully different for folks who look like the people Meyer was speaking to in that room than Meyer himself.
In his speech Thursday, Meyer talked about sacrifice, accountability and being reliable in between the football anecdotes that encompassed a 30-year coaching stint.
He also stressed making difficult decisions for the greater good and putting others above selfish desires that are hallmarks of high character individuals.
Meyer, though, admittedly failed in all those areas before, during and after the Zach Smith domestic violence allegations surfaced and were investigated.
What was his punishment? A meager three-game ban before going out on top in the Rose Bowl and embarking on speaking engagement tours with a cushy multimillion-dollar TV job on the horizon in the fall.
That, folks, is white privilege in a nutshell and Grambling State was complicit in its execution in the shadow of a man in Eddie Robinson who fought for decades to overcome it.