Sports can be a hot topic in Texas, especially football. And people can say things in the wrong way, or things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment. Happens all the time on social media. But, there are some lines that, if crossed, have greater consequences than comment thread infamy. Some lines you just don’t cross, especially if you’re in a position of public prominence or responsibility. Just ask Lynn Redden.
Redden is, at least for now, the superintendent of the Onalaska Independent School District in Piney Woods, Texas, just north of Houston. Recently, Redden was discussing his team, the Houston Texans, on the comment board of a Houston Chronicle article about Texans starting quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson was a big pickup for Houston, and he’s a popular player in east Texas, but he wasn’t very popular after the final whistle of the Texans game against the Tennessee Titans. Houston lost, 20-17, after Watson let the clock run down.
Redden, like many Houston fans, was upset by this decision. Unlike many Houston fans, Redden chose to offer this opinion on the Chronicle’s comment section: “When you need precision decision making you can’t count on a black quarterback.”
The race-based comment was quickly deleted, but — you’ve heard this one before — not until after it was screenshot and shared with the world, including the Chronicle.
Redden was suddenly a household name, being blasted by Texans coach Bill O’Brien: “I really don’t want to waste a lot of time responding to outdated, inaccurate, ignorant, idiotic statements… I’ll just let Deshaun (Watson’s) proven success on the field, his character off the field, speak for itself. He’s one of the greatest guys I’ve ever coached. He represents everything that’s right about football, about life… In this day and age, it’s just amazing that this B.S. exists.”
Watson, when questioned about the comment, chose the high road, saying, “May peace be with him. I worry about me, so I’m not worried about what he has to say.”
Some fans are openly and loudly calling for Redden to be fired. Meanwhile, Redden, when asked what he meant by the comment, told the news he “believed he was sending a private message…” then cited what he called the “limited success” of black quarterbacks in the NFL.
As of this writing, Redden’s ultimate fate has not yet been decided. The school board that employs him is planning a special meeting to determine what action to take, however, they have already issued a statement: “The OISD does not condone negative comments or actions against any race. The district values every individual and therefore the district will take the appropriate measures to address the situation expeditiously and completely.”
While it was necessary to make that statement, it’s what the district says or does next that will create the most public response. They would be wise to choose their public message a lot more carefully than their superintendent.