Using the Nazi term “blitz” at a football game is OK. But using the term “Nazi” as a line-call to warn teammates against an oncoming blitz (in other words, an oncoming evil), as has been used by football coaches in America for decades (just as one might warn “the British are coming!” except worse) is apparently now forbidden.
We still maintain that decent people can reasonably take issue with this kind of arbitrary and arguably nonsensical speech-policing, but even acknowledging that Coach McFarland exercised poor judgment in allowing his team to use the “Nazi” call, especially against a school with a substantial Jewish population, the more important issue here is about the consequences that this 70-year-old man and otherwise exemplary citizen and public servant should have suffered as a result.
Here there should be no doubt among decent people of all faiths that the rush to strip McFarland of his head coaching position and tar him in the local, national, and international press as an anti-Semite, was far beyond reason. McFarland’s colleagues in the football-coaching profession have produced a manual from an Ohio High School Football Coaching Association’s clinic in the mid-1990s showing that the “Nazi” blitz-alert was in common use. McFarland’s former players have gone on record to confirm McFarland’s integrity and that this was a call that was used at previous schools where he served as an assistant coach (as it was at many other schools). Also, there is no dispute that as soon as the Beachwood sideline informed McFarland that they took issue with the team’s use of the call, he immediately instructed his team to stop using it, apologized to the coaches, and offered to apologize directly to the Beachwood players.
The Jewish faith, like many others, teaches the importance of truth, forgiveness, and to avoid doing unnecessary harm to other people and communities. McFarland is a successful businessman who did not need this coaching job but took it on to be of service to the Brooklyn community through the sport he loves. Some of the young men in his program who have difficult home lives, whom McFarland had helped considerably, have already been negatively impacted by his ouster. The hypocrisy of the Beachwood politicians who escalated this issue to demand not only McFarland’s job but that he be smeared in the press is shameful and should be recognized as such by anyone taking a reasonable and decent view of this story. McFarland apologized to them, now they should apologize to him. These Beachwood politicians and anyone else who was taken in by the destructive and shameful moral panic over this story should also reflect on the troubling trend by which false or exaggerated accusations of bigotry are weaponized to serve political ends.