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Pat Narduzzi comments on epithet use amid accusations

Former Pitt linebacker Elias Reynolds said the coach called players "thugs"

Pittsburgh v Georgia Tech Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Last week, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi was accused by former Pitt linebacker Elias Reynolds of calling players on opposing teams as well as players on the Pitt football team “thugs.” On Tuesday, the coach commented on the epithet, noting that he discussed it with the team and it will not be used moving forward.

“Our team held some very honest and painful discussions over the past week about what it’s like to be black in America,” Narduzzi said in a statement. “While I’m usually the one directing the talk in team meetings, I made it a point to simply listen and learn.”

“I want to address the word ‘thug’ and its use in our program,” the Pitt coach said later in the statement. “Simply put, it’s not allowed. Last season, I learned how that word, and what it suggests, has changed. Through our regular discussions in our weekly players’ leadership council, our players shared their feelings on that word. Our program understands it will not be part of our vocabulary.”

In the statement that prompted the response from Narduzzi, Reynolds did not use the coach’s name. However, he stated the person who used the term was “my former head coach” and said “we couldn’t even wear our Pitt hat backwards without being called ‘thugs.’”

The full statement from Reynolds, which was posted on Twitter on June 1, reads:

My former head coach would call opponents ‘Thugs’ if he didn’t like their style of play. He’d even call some of my teammates and I ‘Thugs’ if we wore a hood underneath our travel jumpsuit when it was freezing outside. Lol we couldn’t even wear our Pitt hat backwards without being called ‘Thugs.’ These things happen behind closed doors all the time and are constantly overlooked or never heard about. Although they aren’t direct racial slurs, it isn’t not racism just bc you alternate terms to define us. There is Systemic Oppression and Racism within College Athletics and it needs to be addressed as well. If you are a college coach or a sports coach in general and have spoken out with genuine care and legit facts, I salute you!

The accusation came on the same day that members of the Pitt community began to point out Narduzzi’s silence during a time when many people in influential positions were speaking out about racial injustice in response to the death of George Floyd and the subsequent unrest in the country.

One complaint about Narduzzi’s silence was met with a defense of Narduzzi by a current player who said that the coach and his staff have called and spoken with Pitt players directly about recent events and voiced their support for black players. However, the current player later deleted his comment from Twitter. In addition, Narduzzi eventually issued a statement condemning racism and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

Aside from Reynolds, former Pitt lineman Justin Morgan also called out Narduzzi on Twitter, saying, “Remember when he told me to cut my dreads then said it was pitiful when he didn’t see me with a haircut the next day?” And former Pitt wide receiver Darian Street responded to a tweet from Narduzzi with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote by saying, "Be quiet, Pat. You’re a phony.”

Reynolds left Pitt last November after a mutual decision to part ways, Morgan was dismissed from the program without explanation in August 2018, and Street transferred out of the program in December 2018. There were no accusations from current Pitt players.