Air Force coach in trouble?
Oct. 26: 67-year-old Fisher DeBerry made controversial remarks about African-American players.
Nonetheless, Mueh said the coach would not lose his job.
“It was a seriously, seriously inappropriate comment,” Mueh said. “This was a great first step. This was not Fisher DeBerry, not the man I’ve known for 25 years. I’d like for us to all just move on from there.”
Air Force made two seniors, one white and one black, available after practice. Both said they were not offended by the coach’s statement.
“We, as a team, didn’t think he meant anything by it,” said receiver Jason Brown, who is black. “He’s not that kind of person. I personally wasn’t offended. I think people saw today how sincere he was and he didn’t mean anything by it.”
Center John Wilson, who is white, said last week’s loss had nothing to do with the ethnic makeup of the team.
“There are 250 guys on the team and there is not one player that was offended,” by DeBerry’s statements, Wilson said.
DeBerry took a few questions at the news conference after making his initial apology. At times, it wasn’t quite clear whether he was apologizing for what he said, and the ideas they conveyed, or merely for his word choice.
“I feel like maybe a couple of terms I used should not have been used in any remarks I made to anybody,” he said. “If I offended anyone by using the term ‘Afro-American,’ or ‘minorities,’ then I certainly did it not to offend anyone. I think people know me well enough. I think people know my heart. I think my players know me and how I care about people. I used a couple of terms that don’t reflect the standards and expectations and direction in our recruiting.”
Asked what, exactly, was wrong with saying that blacks run very well, DeBerry replied: “I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. We have some Caucasian players that run very, very well, also. My choice of words, I probably should have said ‘players,’ rather than expressing a particular ethnic group.”
Mueh made it clear that the entire idea DeBerry was discussing was inappropriate.
“Fisher’s already apologized for that statement,” Mueh said. “What we’re talking about is speed. There’s speed that cuts across black, white, gray, blue, whatever. It was just an inappropriate comment and you all know it was an inappropriate comment.”
This episode comes about a year after DeBerry was asked to remove a banner from the locker room that displayed the “Competitor’s Creed,” including the lines “I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ.”
DeBerry’s misstep came as the academy deals with allegations of religious intolerance. The Air Force issued new guidelines directing leaders to be more sensitive to diversity after evangelical Christians were accused of harassing cadets who hold other beliefs.
Mueh said DeBerry, who has won 164 games in his 22 years as head coach at Air Force, shouldn’t be remembered for his latest mistake. The AD credited DeBerry for wanting to make a public apology.
“This is a great man, a great American,” Mueh said. “For him to come forward and admit he made this mistake — it was a serious, serious inappropriate comment — it was a great first step.”
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