Social media post depicting Taggart lynching spurs outcry
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Outrage over a social media posting depicting the lynching of FSU football coach Willie Taggart reached a fever pitch Monday afternoon when a group of Black ministers and a city commissioner called for the person who made the post to apologize.
The group also lauded an investigation by the state attorney’s office and also echoed the sentiment of several FSU fans in asking that his employer take action against him.
The posting on Facebook went up shortly after FSU dropped it final game of the season to the University of Florida, 41-14. With that the Seminoles finished with a 5-7 record and missed out on going to the bowl game for the 37th consecutive season.
“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing your rep,” was posted by a Facebook user, who has since been identified as Tom Shand. The post included a meme of Taggart hanging from a tree with headphones and all.
The post takes Blacks back “to some of the most violent and ugly days of our history,” said Rev. R.B. Holmes, who called the press conference at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.
“Those comments are despicable, deplorable, dangerous and disturbing,” Holmes said, calling for an apology from Shand. “We cannot sit idly by in such a racist intensified society and allow those comments to go unchallenged.
“Maybe this can be a wake-up moment for him. Instead of attacking him, I want to challenge him to retract those comments and go get some help. Those comments aren’t what America is about; not what education is about.”
The abhorrent post drew a swift response from FSU President John Thrasher. Holmes, who said they spoke about the post earlier Monday, praised the president for stepping out in front of the issue.
“A recent racist social media post aimed at our football coach is ignorant and despicable,” Thrasher said in the statement. “I speak for the entire FSU community in expressing our disgust and extreme disappointment, and I am glad the state attorney is investigating. Coach Taggart has our full support and as true Seminoles know, he is a respected member of the FSU family.”
Both Shand’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were deleted Sunday. Shand was terminated Monday from his job with Hilton Grand Vacations, a day after the company said it had suspended a team member for the post without naming him.
City Commissioner Curtis Richardson said a criminal investigation is warranted because the post amounts to a threat on Taggart’s life.
“I’m tired of the apologies because when people do things like this and say things like this, it comes from their heart,” Richardson said. “I hope that he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law if a law was broken.”
Richardson went on to address the insensitivity of the post and how far reaching its affects could be.
“This is very disheartening to me,” Richardson said. “Coach Taggart is not only a football coach and a role model for the students on his team, but he is also a father. I can just imagine what his family is feeling right now.”
Pastor Lee Johnson expressed concern about the influence that the posting could have on young people.
Black and White young people “have come a long way in race relations,” Johnson said. “They are all on social media and to have to see this, throws us back to a time that we felt like we had gotten past.”
Johnson also used the platform to debunk a common theme that divisive comments by President Donald Trump could be at the core of the post.
“I’m not going to give that guy cover by saying that Donald Trump had something to do with him posting that racial epithet,” Johnson said. “To be honest, there are people long before Donald Trump who felt the way this young man feels. We have to hold him accountable and not Donald Trump.”