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Since the football players at the University of Florida are probably too afraid to say this publicly, I’ll do it for them.
What Megan Mullen is doing is gross, disrespectful, and the epitome of a double standard.
Because if a black woman was kissing an almost all-white football team of college-aged young men on the lips or cheek before each game, it would be a national story.
And if a man, no matter his race, was kissing an all-female team as part of a “gameday tradition” then all hell would break loose.
But apparently, that’s what’s been going on with Megan Mullen, the wife of Dan Mullen who serves as the University of Florida’s head football coach.
“When we were here 10 years ago, it was the same. They are our children,” said Megan Mullen in a 2018 video from Rivals.com. “So, I have two at home, then I have a furry baby, and then I have a big baby as a husband, and I’ve got 119 others.”
The video clip is the definition of white female privilege. In it, Mullen isn’t bashful about kissing and hugging players before and after games. She feels it’s her right, as if everything about this isn’t abnormal, weird, and uncomfortable.
In the video, some players speak about the tradition as if they look forward to it and have no issue with it, and that’s their right. But you can’t tell me that the feeling is a unanimous one, especially at a school in the Deep South like Florida.
The story caught fire over the weekend as video of Mullen and the football players was uploaded to social media, leading to a whirlwind of backlash and commentary.
“Not going to tweet the picture going around but Megan Mullen, wife of Gators coach, is a sexual predator. White women sexually harassing Black men isn’t a cute or quaint tradition or whatever gross spin you want to put on it,” wrote @mellowmadds.
“Lost count of the number of things wrong with this. Let’s start with unwanted touching (sexual assault?) by someone in power. Disagree? What do you think happens if a player pulls away? What if the husband of a volleyball coach kissed all the female players before each game?” wrote April Reigns, creator of the viral hashtag-turned-movement, #OscarsSoWhite.
“I went looking for the video where you can see her interacting with players. The woman who posted it, who’s a fan of the coach’s wife, took it down. I find that suspect. I also noticed that the coach’s wife *seemed* much more “friendly” with the Black players.”
I could spend time giving you countless examples of how this type of misbehavior has a historical context that always winds up with the black men in these situations suffering, while the white woman is always protected.
But, I’ll save you the time and remind you that Emmett Till was murdered for less.
It seems that Florida’s football program still hasn’t learned its lesson. Because as we lived in a heightened era of sexual assault and harassment, this same program was in the news earlier this year when former freshman quarterback Jalon Jones was accused of sexual battery involving two female students on the same night.
And while Jones ended up transferring, things were supposedly so uncomfortable that his roommate, Chris Steele, would also transfer due to how the football staff handled his request as he tried to get away from Jones by asking to be placed in a different dorm.
From players to the head coach’s wife, sexual misconduct gets ignored in Gainesville.
Which is why I’m hoping that when the Gators welcome Vanderbilt into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Mullen won’t be around because the university will have done the right thing and banned her from all pregame and postgame activities that involve the team.
A decade ago, Charlie Strong was a defensive coordinator at Florida who was frustrated. He knew that the color of his skin was the reason he wasn’t getting head coaching opportunities. But, he also openly discussed how he felt that being a black man with a white wife in the South was damaging his career advancement
It’s funny how some things stay the same, yet change for certain people over a decade in a place like Florida.
Which is why I’m here to tell you that there has never been a place, or period of time, in America in which Charlie Strong and his wife could have gotten away with what Megan Mullen is doing.
Because racism is an American tradition that refuses to die.