No matter how he tries to spin it, Darby football coach Jeff Snavely was not a victim of the wrong words.
When the coach posted that Black Lives Matter protesters in Salt Lake City should be hanged, we knew exactly what he meant.
The coach left nothing to be construed when he wrote, “They should all be strung up and hang in the public like the old days. Lot less of that sh*t would go on.”
The coach was calling for the lynching of black Americans along with all of those pesky people who support black Americans — just like they did in the good ol’ days of Dixie.
Yet, amazingly, Snavely is keeping his job as a high school football coach, where he will continue to have a major influence over developing young minds.
“I’m deeply regretful that I posted that,” Snavely told the school board during a remote meeting on Thursday. “It could have been worded differently and none of this would have been an issue. That is my problem to bear.”
Unfortunately, it is not solely the coach’s burden. Because the school board chose not to fire the coach, the entire state now looks bad.
When this story is read nationally — and it will if it has not been already — people are not going to simply think the town of Darby is full of a bunch of racist hicks. It will not just reflect poorly on the Bitterroot Valley.
No, the coach and the school board are going to make the entire state look like clansmen.
When Ted Kaczynski was arrested, people did not say that the Unabomber was building his bombs in Lincoln. When the Freeman staged their long, armed standoff with the FBI, the nation did not say it was in Jordan.
In both instances, it was Montana that suffered a black eye. It was the whole Treasure State that was the butt of the national jokes.
When people read about Coach Snavely, they are going to say, “Wow, what the heck is wrong with those people from Montana?”
The vast majority of Montanans reject hate and racism, but one coach is still making us all look like Confederate flag-waving hicks.
That the post came from a coach makes the matter about a million times worse than if it came from your average internet tough guy, too.
Football coaches are supposed to be leaders of young men. They are supposed to enrich the lives of the players and teach them commitment and teamwork that will make them better adults.
Instead, his poor choices and lame excuse making are doing exactly the opposite.
When Snavely told the board that his racist post could have been “worded differently,” he added insult to our intelligence to injury.
At some point in time, everybody has used the wrong choice of words and found themselves in hot water. The wrong word can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
I have used the wrong word and gotten in hot water hundreds of times, if not more.
Never, however, did a slip of words result in me calling — publicly or privately — for a lynching and a return to the good old days when black people were lynched for not knowing their place.
Snavely did not make a mistake of words. His mistake was using words to express his hateful thoughts. Nobody has ever accidentally promoted a mass execution.
His online comments, which did not suddenly become less hurtful because Snavely deleted the Facebook post, make you cringe at the thought of what the coach is saying to the players when his comments are not a matter of public record.
And still, the school board bought the coach’s line off bull, even if Darby Schools Superintendent Danny Johnston talked a good game when the news first broke of the hateful post.
“The school absolutely does not support or is represented by anything that is said or was said by Mr. Snavely,” Johnston said, according to 406mtsports.com, on June 11. “He is our seasonal football coach, and we are looking into the incident, and we will deal with it appropriately in our measures.
“… We take things like this pretty seriously. We do not advocate that. He is not the voice of our school, and we take it very seriously.”
While Darby Schools officials might say they do not support Snavely’s comments, the board is not willing to support the obviously correct decision and send the coach packing.
Excuse us if we have a hard time telling the difference.
Instead of firing Snavely for a Facebook post that would make David Duke flinch, the school board is talking about a slap on the wrist in the form of a suspension. The board discussed possibly suspending the coach, who thankfully does not work as a teacher, for up to half of the season.
In Class C 8-man football, the regular season is eight games, so Snavely will likely be sidelined for (at most) four measly weeks. If they really wanted to send a message, they would extend the suspension by about 399 years and 48 weeks.
That would seem like a more appropriate response in this case.
“I take full responsibility for my poor judgement posting a comment that resulted in criticism and embarrassment,” Snavely told the school board.
Judging by the coach’s words, he does not appear to be sorry for what he said. Instead, he is sorry that he could not find a more subtle way to express his bigotry.
If the coach is truly going to take responsibility for his post and the embarrassment to all of Montana, he still has the opportunity to do just that. All he has to do is find the right two words that will make things better for everyone involved, including himself.
All Snavely has to do is say, “I quit,” and this whole scandal will disappear faster than it started.
Then Coach Snavely will no longer be a burden for the people of Montana to bear.
— Bill Foley, who patented the worded-differently defense, writes a column that usually appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. He is writing more frequently during the coronavirus lockdown. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.