Marshall University head football coach Bob Pruett is facingtough scrutiny from the media and Black community after publiclyusing the phrase “Mandingo Warriors” to refer to opposingplayers of African American descent.
While talking with reporters in Huntington,W.Va. last week, Pruett made his latest statement when he claimedOhio State’s football team was a “bunch ofMandingos.”
Although Pruett, who began his first stint atcollegiate coaching in 1979 at Marshall, claims he did not intendto offend anyone by his comments, members of the NAACP and USAToday have already challenged the former Continental FootballLeague tight end.
“By all means if it was offensive toanyone, I profusely apologize. I used in an effort to explainsuperior physical ability,” Pruett told USA TodayTuesday. “I would consider it complimentary if someonecalled me a (Mandingo) warrior. I profusely apologize. I didn’t mean it to be derogatory to anyone.”
However, critics such as Charles Farrell,director of Rainbow Sports, a division of Rev. Jesse Jackson’sRainbow/PUSH coalition, claim coaches should shy away from usingthe phrase because the original connotation is lost in history.
“Even if you’re trying to look for theoriginal Mandingo connotation, it’s totally misplaced. Ithink when coaches do this; they do not have a good sense ofhistory. Nor do they have the proper type of respect forAfrican Americans and their history because it is also a slaveterm. I see no place in football to refer to anybody as aMandingo warrior,” Farrell told USA Today.
According to encyclopedia references, the termrefers to a group of Africans who invaded western Nigeria about1000 A.D. They were known across the continent as warriorsand conquerors. During the slave trade however, Mandingo wasused to describe the strong Black male slaves that every plantationowner desired.
The 1975 release of the film Mandingo, whichstarred heavyweight champion Ken Norton as a slave courting a whitewomen, allowed for a greater visibility of the term amongst theAmerican public, and like many other terms, such as”nigger” and “jezebel,” it has become widelyused over the decades disparagingly.
Sylvia Ridgeway, president of the NAACP branchin Huntington, W. Va., defends Pruett claiming that if anything,the coach’s choice of wording was poor, not racist.
“I follow Marshall football, and I havenever, ever heard him make racial remarks, before, which leads meto believe it was an indication of how he felt about strength andboldness, not anything negative,” says Ridgeway.
Over the years, Pruett has made similarcomments about the team’s Florida, Tennessee, Western Michigan, andClemson opponents.