This article has been updated with the information of a counterpetition to support Coach Maynard.
A proverbial bomb in lieu of a real one, Head Football Coach Mike Maynard faced immediate backlash from the Redlands community after his response to civilian unrest last week. The Tweet, which came in the midst of nationwide protests to support Black Lives Matter, replied to a video showing fireworks exploding in someone’s car, located at a peaceful protest in Riverside.
The comment quickly drew criticism from the student population. Dawit Aklilu, who graduated this spring, started a petition calling for Maynard to be removed from his University position. As of Tuesday evening, more than 1,350 people had signed.
The petition describes Maynard’s reaction as “dismiss[ive] of the tragedy of the forceful suppression of a peaceful protest in order to marvel at the weapons used. . . [which is] indicative of a deep character flaw that students, alumni, and the greater University community cannot tolerate to any extent.”
It is relevant, however, that despite the protesters’ understandable reactions of distress, it was not a bomb that caused the disruption, but fireworks. Maynard’s statements were made on social media and not in the course of an official duty as a University coach. A matter of debate among students and alumni, his statement is at best a poorly-timed joke, and at worst an expression of disregard for the safety of peaceful protesters.
Two individuals on Twitter, who report competing as football players at Redlands, had troubling claims in light of this incident. Noah Rajaa described his experience under Maynard as “terrible,” making no specific accusation of racism. Another alumnus, citing his experience as a student athlete in 2017, said that Maynard required him to take a drug test for missing a workout because of the death of his uncle, suggesting that white athletes did not face the same scrutiny.
Yet, the testimonies were not one-sided. Coming to his defense, Tam Berhe, an African-American attorney who reported playing under Maynard from 2006-2010, described him as always being an ally. According to Berhe, Maynard helped advance diversity on the team.
Student athlete Devin Escobedo ‘23 called Maynard a mentor of “integrity, humility, and respect,” saying that nothing could negate the positive impact he’s had on students.
A counterpetition, started by someone listed only as ‘Esteban V,’ has surpassed the current count of the original. As of Wednesday afternoon, both are approaching 1,400 signatures.
The Bulldog reached out to Coach Maynard about the original intent of his Tweet but he has not yet responded.
USA Today reported that Maynard apologized on Twitter last Wednesday, though his statements can no longer be located.
“Let me apologize for an unintentional reply I made (in error) to a friend who messaged to tell me to be careful, stay inside and defend my property. Those who know me know that I believe in Criminal Justice Reform and that all men are created in that awesome likeness of God,’’ Maynard said.
The controversy is being investigated by the University, which has placed him on administrative leave. Jeff Martinez, the Director of Athletics, addressed the Tweet on Saturday, June 6, labeling it as contrary to the values of the U of R.
“We must be unified in our commitment to the work that makes change happen. Work that makes our world better, richer, wiser, and just. It is our shared responsibility as coaches, staff, and student-athletes to listen to each other, to be heard by all, and to make a difference for the greater good,” Martinez said.
Christopher Jones Jr., the recently-hired Senior Diversity and Inclusion Officer, agreed to conduct a formal review of Maynard’s statements. The result of that inquiry will influence whether or not Maynard has a role in the future of Bulldog athletics.