In an interview on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, the Nevada Sagebrush asked President Johnson his thoughts on Colin Kaepernick, sports and more.
President Marc Johnson said there has been no reason for removing Colin Kaepernick and the university has not removed Colin Kaepernick’s face around campus.
“One example that I see is the pictures in the airport, where we still have a picture of Colin Kaepernick,” President Johnson said. “We used to have two, one of them has been replaced…but we also have a picture of Colin Kaepernick in the UNR display at the airport.”
President Johnson said the university has never backed away from supporting Kaepernick. He said when Kaepernick received his Nike contract, President Johnson sent out a statement in support of Kaepernick’s participation in the national dialogue about these issues. President Johnson said, as a university president, he supports free speech. President Johnson said the university did not comment on the content of Kaepernick’s message but they’re happy to see him expressing himself.
“We will never back away from Colin Kaepernick because he gave us a great amount of service during the time he was here and we will never back away from his right to express himself,” President Johnson said.
President Johnson said university donors did not play a part in Kaepernick’s presence on campus.
“We have a lot to do with the videos going in there, but the pictures surrounding are largely due to athletics,” President Johnson said in reference to the airport display.
President Johnson believes Kaepernick had a right to protest.
“It was a time when there were many shootings of black people by white police officers and it looked like it was happening like every week,” President Johnson said. “It was getting awful. It was quite reasonable that Colin and some of his colleagues would take a public stance in a way that really gripped the nation.”
President Johnson also added that any time a person attacks a symbol, then they attack something people are emotionally attached to. He said if a person makes a demonstration, a symbol is a ‘good place to go’ because the demonstration will get attention in an emotional way.
“He was quite aware of the impact that it would have. I don’t think he was aware it would hurt his career…he was a very, very thoughtful and smart individual. We knew that all the time when he was here.”
President Johnson confirmed Antonio Gutierrez, a UNRPD officer who dressed as Colin Kaepernick and wore blackface for a Halloween costume, is still employed as an officer.
“[Gutierrez] was counselled for a significant period of time and we are confident he will never do that again,” President Johnson said. “…Maybe there was an expectation for him to be fired, but we don’t have the legal right to fire a classified employee of the state.”
President Johnson said faculty counselling is education. He said sometimes the education is in seminars and other times through one-on-one conversations.
“After the police stop that got so much attention, every one of our police officers were given a half-day racial sensitivity training taught by one black person and one Hispanic person…that was group education sensitivity training,” President Johnson said in reference to UNRPD’s Adam Wilson joking about shooting UNR alumni Kevin McReynolds.
President Johnson said Gutierrez counselling was one-on-one education.
“That was one-on-one education on how that makes black people feel to go back to the old days of blackface…that’s a bad part of out history and people who don’t understand history, read history repeat the same mistakes that people do,” President Johnson said.”That’s the kind of counselling that occurs when you talk to someone for a couple of hours about the impact of that representation.”
Taylor Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @taylorkendyll.