Columbus Dispatch columnist Rob Oller confirmed Tuesday that while Urban Meyer was the coach of the Ohio State football team a staffer used a photo of Trayvon Martin to amplify a team rule that said players couldn’t wear hoodies in the football building.
Martin was a 17-year-old Black Floridian who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in 2012.
The news came about during a barrage of tweets sent by 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 charges toward the program, some of which were denied by former players and some were supported by former players. And many targeted 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.”
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 pic.twitter.com/bGdJVZaEVT
— Marcus Williamson (@WW_Marcus) January 2, 2022
The photo was of Martin.
Meyer, who left Ohio State following the 2018 Rose Bowl, told Oller that until Tuesday he was unaware the Martin photo appeared during a freshman orientation meeting that outlined program rules and protocols. Meyer on Sunday told author Jeff Snook the photo incident “never happened.”
“I didn’t know about it until one hour ago, until after talking to (former Buckeyes safety Tyvis Powell),” Meyer said Tuesday afternoon. “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 cautioned that people should think twice about using 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.
Oller contacted Powell.
“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.”
Urban Meyer, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chris Doyle
When Meyer became the coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars last year, one of his first hires was former Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
Doyle left the Iowa program in 2020 because of allegations of racism and bullying.
Meyer said at the time: “I’ve known Chris for close to 20 years. Our relationship goes back to when I was at Utah and he was the No. 1 strength coach. I vetted him thoroughly along with our general manager and owner. I feel great about the hire, about his expertise at that position. We vetted him thoroughly and sports performance is going to be a high, high priority.”
Doyle resigned not long after originally being hired and Meyer and the Jaguars were subpoenaed as part of a lawsuit involving Doyle.
Meyer was fired in December mid-season of his first year in Jacksonville.