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Whitlock: Michigan coach Juwan Howard feels ‘untouchable’ in racist world liberal elites constructed

Op-ed
John Fisher/Getty Images

Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard believes he’s untouchable.

And why shouldn’t he? The rules imposed by our China-influenced institutions of government, education, sport, media (corporate and social), and art grant him a bigoted form of privilege.

Howard is black, elite, and a supporter of left-wing social justice. He checks all the boxes for the elimination of standards, accountability, and adult expectations. Our current culture immunizes Howard from real consequence. He took the blackcine, the alleged experimental cure for bigotry that injects people with the mindset that black people are inferior and can’t be held to the same standards as white, Asian, and Latino people.

Howard is fully blackcinated and boosted. He can’t be touched.

We saw that yesterday in the handshake line after the Wisconsin Badgers routed Howard’s Wolverines. Incensed that Wisconsin coach Greg Gard called a timeout with 15 seconds to play, Howard yelled at and attempted to walk past Gard without the customary handshake. Gard placed his hand on Howard’s elbow and tried to explain his use of a timeout. Howard responded by grabbing Gard’s shirt in the center of his chest and then pointing a finger in Gard’s face while repeatedly shouting, “Don’t f---ing touch me!”

Players and assistant coaches separated Howard and Gard. Moments later, Howard reached across several people and struck Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft. Howard’s blow ignited a fracas among players from both teams.

Howard’s on-court, postgame behavior was embarrassing and justifies a season-ending suspension.

Howard’s postgame interview was troubling and justifies his firing.

“I didn’t like the timeout being called,” Howard told reporters, “and I’ll be totally honest, I thought it was not necessary in that moment, especially being a large lead. And then to have the timeout being called with 3, 4 seconds to go I thought that was – what I felt – wasn’t fair to our guys. So that’s what happened.”

There was no timeout called with 3 or 4 seconds to play. Howard is confused. Given time to collect his thoughts, Howard had no real idea what happened at the end of the game.

With 48 seconds to play and leading by 19 points, Wisconsin emptied its bench and inserted its scrubs, including several walk-ons. Howard instructed his players to compete until the final second. The Wolverines pressed full court and caused a Badger turnover.

“It wasn’t a press,” Howard told reporters. “We were just five, pressure defense man to man. That’s what five is for us.”

So it wasn’t a press. It was pressure defense man to man. Got it. Howard was in a total fog during his postgame media session. It’s like he blacked out. He lost a game and lost his mind.

“For someone to touch me, and I think that was very uncalled for him to touch me as we were verbalizing and communicating with one another,” Howard said. “That’s what ended up happening. That’s what escalated it.”

Getting touched in a handshake line is not unusual. It’s customary. Howard escalated the situation when he hit a Wisconsin assistant coach in the face.

“Oh yeah, it was more than that,” Howard responded when a reporter pointed out the point of a handshake line is to touch. “Yeah, he touched me unnecessary. There wasn’t cause for that when we were talking. At that point I thought it was time to protect myself.”

Five to 10 seconds after being touched by Gard, Howard protected himself by attacking Joe Krabbenhoft. It makes no sense. Howard sounded like a 12-year-old playground bully at best and a violent criminal with no emotional control at worst.

What he did not sound like was a leader, an adult capable of counseling young people not to be easily provoked. You can’t strike a man because someone touched your elbow or stepped on your favorite gym shoes. Striking the Wisconsin assistant was bad. The rationalization of the act was far worse.

How can Michigan have confidence in Howard’s ability to lead? Howard has less emotional control than his players.

Indiana University fired Bobby Knight 22 years ago, ending the era of out-of-control bully coaches. Twenty-years before Knight’s dismissal, Ohio State dumped its legendary football coach, Woody Hayes, for throwing a punch at a Clemson player.

Things we tolerated and/or overlooked decades ago, we no longer do. The Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Pete Campbell, and “Mad Men” era is gone. Juwan Howard can’t be retroactively grandfathered in. Replacing “Mad Men” with “Mad and Untouchable Black People” is a mistake and equally harmful and racist.

But that’s what we’re doing. We’re codifying cultural norms that lower or eliminate all standards of behavior and achievement for black people. You can see it in the education system, the criminal justice system, and the sports world. Leftists are defining black people as incapable of meeting traditional cultural norms. We’ve been defined as a special group worthy of a capital B that distinguishes us from the masses.

The behavior of black people has been deemed irrelevant. Only the actions of white people matter. From the use of the N-word all the way to murder, we only care about the behavior of one group – white people. That’s why it’s forbidden to talk about the behavior George Floyd exhibited that contributed to his death. Discussing Colin Kaepernick’s career-destroying and illogical behavior is frowned upon. Criticizing LeBron James or Barack Obama is an unforgivable sin.

Floyd, Kaepernick, James, and Obama are untouchable.

When people believe their actions are above scrutiny and irrelevant, their behavior typically becomes more erratic. That’s what we’re witnessing with Juwan Howard.

I first met Juwan when he was a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Michigan and the most mature member of the famed Fab Five. I covered the team for the Ann Arbor News. Howard was an impressive young person. He was mature, respectful, and classy. He had a huge heart. He brought his best friend from childhood – a kid everyone called “Juice” – to Michigan. Juice was small and smart. He and Howard were inseparable. At the time, it seemed understood that Howard used his athletic gift to empower and educate his best friend from home.

I’ve always been impressed with Howard. I’m shocked to see Howard struggle with his emotions and behavior. A year ago, he had an over-the-top, on-court confrontation with Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. Turgeon says Howard threatened to kill him.

It was an ugly scene. Michigan took no disciplinary action against Howard. The team was nationally ranked and would eventually advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Howard should’ve been disciplined a year ago.

But he’s untouchable and knows it.

That’s why he was so offended that Gard had the audacity to protect his bench players from Michigan’s endgame, full-court press. Gard’s walk-ons were getting overwhelmed and embarrassed. The final 48 seconds of a blowout are a walk-on’s reward for practicing every day. Upset by the loss, Howard decided to ruin the reward Gard gave his scrubs. When Gard countered with a timeout, Howard emoted and eventually erupted.

Joe Krabbenhoft is white. Had he struck Howard, Krabbenhoft would have been fired Sunday night. He would be portrayed as the second coming of Derek Chauvin.

Howard has somehow been cast as the victim. Calls for his removal as Michigan head coach are being framed as a racist overreaction. For white bigots and black supporters of black inferiority, holding Howard to the same standard as a white coach would be racist.

Like Al Capone, Howard is untouchable. He will not be punished for his bad behavior. In a year or two, Michigan will fire Howard for NCAA Tournament evasion.
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