Hoya Ghosts: Who Hung Up The Racist Banner About Georgetown’s John Thompson In 1975?
April 14 / Mohammed Rahman / SportsGrid
When ESPN aired its Fab Five documentary two months ago, it was like a casting call for Sports Pundits Gone Wild. The perfect storm of controversy surrounding that project, typified by Jalen Rose's "Uncle Tom" comments regarding black Duke University players, started a conversation about race and college sports that is still being had today.
After the piece aired, Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports published an article that asserted John Thompson's Georgetown Hoyas, a team that sported an all-black starting lineup a decade before the Fab Five, were being overlooked as the real game-changers in college hoops.
Harold Bell, a former Nike employee, rebuked Whitlock's claims with his own column. In short: Bell said that Thompson was a bully and an adulterer. He also said that in order to save his own job, Thompson, a black coach, orchestrated the hanging of a racist banner in McDonough gym in 1975.
Early in his second season at Georgetown, when his job was on the line, in the wee hours of the morning someone hung a banner in the Georgetown Gym that read “John Thompson the nigger coach must go!”
Back then I was his first line of defense in the media.
When he called my home at 3 a.m. explaining what had happened, I was pissed off.
I must admit, he played me like a beaten drum. I later discovered he'd hung the banner himself.
Strong claims. And also false ones, according to a former Hoya.
In a piece published on SB Nation's Casual Hoya blog, an anonymous former player under Thompson asserts that two possibly-drunk football players, ticked off that their locker rooms were moved, had hung the banner.
Now the whole episode has been the subject of speculation for years so let's put it to bed. My understanding is as follows: the sheet was made and briefly hung by two members of the football team at the time. The football team had been moved to the locker room on the west side of McDonough along with other intercollegiate teams that fall.
The basketball team, which hadn't had to move their lockers, was the target of two angry football players "with an axe to grind," according to the player.
So, clearly, someone is lying here. The detailed account given by the former player, compared with Bell's offhanded assertion that Thompson had hung the banner (which included no supporting evidence) has us thinking that Bell has his facts mixed up. Also, John Thompson hanging up a banner with the N word on it just kind of sounds fucking crazy.