Lauderdale County High School head football coach Bob Grisham is in trouble for making derogatory statements about first lady Michelle Obama and gays in the presence of students.
Ad hominem” is a word most of us, including writers of editorials, would do well to learn.
It means to attack the character or motives of an opponent rather than debating an issue on logical grounds. In the case of children on the elementary school playground, it might mean insulting the opponent’s appearance.
One would hope teachers and coaches would be mature enough not to resort to such tactics. But then we get the following diatribe from Lauderdale County High School head football coach Bob Grisham:
“Fat butt Michelle Obama,” a recorded voice attributed to Grisham says in the presence of students. “Look at her. She looks like she weighs 185 or 190. She’s overweight.”
If Grisham opposes the first lady’s effort to make school lunches more nutritious, why doesn’t he present scholarly evidence against it? In the process, perhaps he could address Alabama’s obesity rate, which ranks among the worst in the nation.
Instead, he resorts to crude jokes about appearance. We might suggest that Michelle Obama lend a mirror to the coach, but that would make us guilty of ad hominen.
Perhaps a metaphorical mirror might be more useful. It could reflect what has not escaped many other members of the community, who are shocked and embarrassed by the coach’s comments.
Grisham told the TimesDaily he “misspoke in a debate-type situation.” We do not know who was present at the time. We wonder, however, if the coach would feel comfortable standing in front of his black and white football team, and insulting the first lady. Would he feel good about mocking the campaign slogan of the nation’s first black president? Would he feel confident giving his opinion about “queers” to the entire student body, knowing some of those students likely are gay?
How does he face his team now? How does he face the students in his psychology class? How does he face his community?
For the moment, Grisham will face Superintendent Jennifer Gray and the county Board of Education, who say they are investigating the situation. We do not know what, if any, policies have been violated, whether tenure will come into play or what the outcome will be.
We do know his comments are unacceptable.
Grisham said he has no hatred toward anyone or any group. “People that know my heart, they know that,” he added.
It will be up to the superintendent, school board and community to decide whether a connection exists between this man’s heart and the words that pour out of his mouth.