BROOKLYN, Ohio (WJW) — For the first time since he says he was asked to resign, the former head football coach at Brooklyn High School is defending his reputation against accusations of him being an antisemite.
Alongside his attorney on Thursday, McFarland, who is 70, said he has never before been accused of being hateful, and the term is one that has been used by football teams across the state of Ohio for decades.
His attorney, Peter Pattakos, showed FOX 8 News a page he said was from an Ohio High School Coaches Association manual in the 1990s, in which the term was one of five “code words” used to signify that the opposing team was about to blitz.
“There’s five different calls, there’s Nazi, bandit, renegade, Indian and mascot,” said Pattakos.
Quoting the manual, Pattakos read: “Nazi is listed here as call to alert the QB that an outside cover person is moving into a blitz position.”
In fact, Pattakos said the football term “blitz” is actually named after ruthless German attacks leading up to and during the second world war.
“The Nazis were famous for their Nazi blitzkrieg attacks. The football term comes directly from that. It signifies an aggressive attack by an opponent. You are on the line, you are using ‘Nazi, Nazi’ to signify a blitz as a code word. Should blitz not be allowed to be said either?” questioned Pattakos.
McFarland said this was not the first year he has used the term in his program, but as soon as he heard that some of the Brooklyn players were offended, he offered to make things right.
“I apologized to the coach immediately and told him that I would apologize to his students or the whole team at that moment or come into the locker room and apologize, because I felt terrible. But I told him immediately that we wont use it, we just won’t use it,” said McFarland, telling FOX 8 News they did not use the word again through the remainder of the game.
“I felt terrible. My intent is never to make a kid feel bad, especially a kid that’s out there working hard to play football and trying to win and do his best. My intent is never to make a high school kid feel bad about themselves, so I felt bad,” said McFarland.
As for his resignation, McFarland said he was asked to resign, but was not given an ultimatum.
“Well, that was never made clear, but I was asked to resign,” McFarland told FOX 8 News.
“I was worried about the situation, but I didn’t want to resign. You know, I care for those kids. I always tell them it’s my job as their coach to love them and it’s their job to love each other, so I hate being in the middle of a job that’s undone,” he added.
Below, read Pattakos’ full statement on McFarland’s behalf:
Beachwood’s superintendent previously told FOX 8 News that there was no place for the word “Nazi” on a football field.
“That’s disturbing on many levels, especially being sensitive to the community we are playing. I guess the bottom line is, regardless of intent or whether or not it was focused on any individual, that language is unacceptable for our district,” said Ted Caleris.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association appeared to back Brooklyn City Schools’ decision to break with McFarland in a statement released to FOX 8 News on Tuesday.
“The OHSAA expects that the school will not have any similar issues moving forward, as offensive language has no place in sports at any level and goes against the values of sportsmanship, respect and education-based athletics,” it reads.
The use of the word “Nazi” on a high school football field has also been criticized by representatives of the Anti-Defamation League and local politicians.
Pattakos was critical of those whom he believes took political correctness too far, accusing them of “weaponizing” accusations of antisemitism against “a decent man.”
“What I would like to see is the folks in Beachwood to recognize that they got a little carried away calling for this man’s job. He offered an apology. They didn’t want an apology, they wanted blood, and they wanted his job,” said Pattakos.
“The coach was accommodating. He was ready to apologize, he was ready to stop using the term. I don’t understand why that wasn’t enough. There’s zero evidence that this man intended anything negative, and now he’s smeared in the New York Times, The Associated Press, all over the country as an antisemite. It is political correctness out of control,” he added.
Even at the age of 70, McFarland said he had hoped to continue coaching, but feels that would be impossible after the damage to his reputation.
“You know football has been a passion in my life — something that I have always loved and still love. And so, no, I wasn’t thinking about retiring,” he said.
“I think its going to be very difficult. I think my reputation is extremely damaged and I think it’s unfortunate, but I think it would be very difficult to coach again.”