I need to take a moment to write a column that's not easy to write. It is difficult for two reasons. First, Clemson University is my alma mater. It's the place where my mother went to college and where my grandparents have poured money into scholarships for young athletes. Three years ago, I walked across the stage to complete my college career. It's difficult for me to write anything that might hurt Clemson - either athletically or in general prestige.
It's also difficult for me because I thought we were past this kind of stuff. I thought I went to a school with honor. I thought I went to a school with respect for the United States, the American armed forces, and the office of President. After all - Clemson was a military college until 1955. I remember going to a school where we raised a million bucks to create the Scroll of Honor, a stadium-side memorial to the nearly 500 lives Clemson families have sacrificed to this country. I thought I grew up watching games in Memorial Stadium, a place where the rights weren't for sale, because the ultimate price had already been paid by those who fought for this country.
Apparently I was wrong. Because what happened today in Clemson was a disgrace to this country.
Every football season, Clemson holds its military appreciation day. Today was supposed to be a special day. Afghanistan and Iraq veteran Daniel Rodriguez - a Purple Heart winner and now member of the football team - was supposed to lead the team in its iconic entrance to the field. Veterans were supposed to stand while the band played their portion of the Armed Forces Medley. Fans were supposed to honor Rodriguez and the rest of the people who have fought so hard to protect this country.
Instead, a not-insignificant portion of the crowd led an embarrassing display. As members of the Clemson ROTC took their oath - the one that binds them to uphold the Constitution and risk their life to defend America against her enemies - the fans couldn't help themselves. When that oath mentioned the "President of the United States," the crowd let go an embarrassing sound that will sully the reputation of this wonderful school. Thousands of people booed the President while a Marine led a ceremony to swear-in young men and women who will fight in our nation's wars.
There is no honor in that display. It is the type of ignorant showmanship that often passes for "patriotism" where I am from. Clemson has seen its academic profile rise, as SAT scores have gone up and the school has climbed public university rankings. Many days, I am a proud Clemson alumnus. Today I am embarrassed to be associated with a school and a fan base that would dare to disparage the President of the United States during a ceremonial military oath. Those people are cowards and they sullied an otherwise inspiring moment for brave men and women who have chosen to serve their country under the Commander-in-Chief.
Note to my fellow alumni and the fans who participated in this embarrassing display - patriotism is not waving a flag. It is not marked by bold and boisterous shows of male bravado. Patriotism is service to your country and an acknowledgement of the respect due to the people who serve their country and the individuals who hold high office.