While Urban Meyer was coach of the Ohio State football team, a staffer used a photo of Trayvon Martin to amplify a team rule that players couldn’t wear hoodies in the football building, The Columbus Dispatch confirmed Tuesday.
Martin, a Black teen from Florida, was 17 when he was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012.
The news of the Martin picture surfaced in recent tweets from former Ohio State defensive back Marcus Williamson, who said he retired from football before the Buckeyes’ Rose Bowl game on Saturday. Williamson levied several stinging allegations toward the program, some that were denied by former players and some supported. Many of his tweets referenced coaches, specifically Meyer.
Williamson tweeted: “My first team meeting. (True story 2017) This photo was presented to us via PowerPoint to institute our building wide rule of “no hoods” in the building.”
Meyer, who left Ohio State after the 2018 Rose Bowl and was fired as Jacksonville Jaguars coach last month, on Sunday told journalist Jeff Snook the photo incident “never happened.”
However, on Tuesday afternoon, Meyer told The Dispatch that he had been unaware the Martin photo had appeared during a freshman orientation meeting outlining program rules until he learned of it from a former player that same day.
“I didn’t know about it until one hour ago, until after talking to (former Buckeyes safety Tyvis Powell),” Meyer told The Dispatch. “I wasn’t there (in the meeting). None of the coaches were present. It was a support staffer who was in error and apologized.”
Meyer said people should think twice about using the word racism, calling it the “R-word.”
“My biggest thing is you use that R-word (racism) and it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, people run with it,” Meyer said.
The Dispatch contacted Powell, the player who spoke to Meyer about the photo.
“People think it’s racist to show that photo of Trayvon Martin, and I understand where they’re coming from,” Powell said. “To the Black culture, that is huge. There will be an uproar whenever that is brought up in a meeting or whatever context. Automatically, it is offensive to people.”
Powell, who played under Meyer from 2012-15, said the incident was unfortunate, adding, “They automatically assume Coach Meyer was racist. From my own experience, I can say nothing racial or racist was ever going on during my time.”
Former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones defended Meyer and the program, tweeting:
“Man, where do I start about Williamson comments about the OSU football program. Trying to paint the program & it’s leaders out to be racist is mind blowing! I can’t speak on his experience but I’m sure a LARGE number of players who played at OSU would disagree with his comments.”