Clemson's Dabo Swinney: We have to accept challenge to make change

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he has spent the past few days "listening" rather than releasing a statement about the numerous protests against police violence going on around the country, but on Monday he offered his thoughts on the issue during a teleconference with media.

"We've had so much bad news. Everywhere you turn, there's bad news. Today I wanted to take a moment and offer some good news," Swinney said, noting his religious faith as a reason for optimism. "We all have a choice as to how we think, how we love, how we respond and how we forgive. There's no question these are challenging times, but what I've learned is when there is no challenge there is no change. We all have to accept the challenge."

George Floyd, a black man, died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd's death has prompted nationwide protests.

Swinney said he has spoken with his staff and several players in recent days in order to get feedback from them on the best way forward.

Swinney, who is not active on any social media platforms, said it was his goal to have a more personal interaction rather than to simply release a statement from the school.

"I'm glad I don't have social media, and my reaction would've probably been to get on social media and say something I regret," he said. "I'm not going to join Twitter to just make a statement on something. I could release a statement any time, but I just wanted to speak. It was just making sure I had my thoughts in a way that I think can be constructive."

Swinney's absence from the recent conversations about race and police brutality -- conversations that many high-profile coaches have weighed in on -- had created a bit of a stir. Swinney courted controversy in 2016 when he suggested people who protest during the national anthem should leave the country.

"I don't think it's good to use the team as a platform," Swinney said at the time. "I totally disagree with that. I just think there's a right way to do things. I don't think two wrongs make a right. Never have, never will. I think it just creates more divisiveness, more division."

On Monday, Swinney was asked about those comments and said they were "probably a harsh statement, for sure." But he added, "I still believe in the good of people, and I do believe that we have lots of problems, for sure. But I still think we have the best country in the world. It's up to us to make it better."

Several of Swinney's players, notably quarterback Trevor Lawrence, had taken to social media over the weekend to express their support for black teammates and to demand change, and Swinney said he believes encouraging that among his players is his best outlet. He was asked whether he felt he could work to create change within the community, and he said he hoped his team would serve as the right example.

"We have a lot of great men who have come through this program that are creating wonderful change," he said. "I'm a football coach. That's what I love to do. That's my passion."

Clemson players are set to return to campus following more than two months away due to the coronavirus shutdown, and Swinney said he has spoken with several of them about the current civil unrest.

"Our team is hurting," Swinney said, "but we absolutely must come together."