What is the proper way to refer to Deion Luwynn Sanders, Sr., currently employed as the Head Coach of the football team of the University of Colorado at Boulder? This question actually has a rather simple answer. The man has requested that he be referred to as “Coach Prime” as his professional name, and therefore he should be referred to as Coach Prime.
This is a normal courtesy. For example, if a person is named William Robert Jones, he could simply be called William. But he might prefer to be called Will, Willy, Bill, or Billy. Or he might prefer to be known by his middle name and be called Robert, Bob, Bobby, Bubba, Bo, or even Billy Bob. Perhaps he prefers he prefers to be called Will Jones but hates being called Billy Bob Jones. So out of respect, you call him Will Jones. But if you want to be a jerk, you call him “Billy Bob! Hey, Billy Bob!” And therein lies the issue. It’s a question of respect.
A human being deserves to be called what he or she wishes to be called. A petty game of disrespect is to call them something else. This petty game has been played by racists for centuries. Would you like to be referred to as a man? Well, we’re going to make a point of calling you “boy.” It is not a term of endearment if we refuse to call you a man.
This is why it is wrong if sportswriters insist on referring to Coach Prime by some other less formal form of address. Coach Prime is extremely polite in his press conferences. This commentator cannot say that he has seen every press conference given by the coach, but in almost every instance he refers to the sportswriter as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” This is just the style or decorum he has sought to instill in his press conferences.
In some cases, sportswriters have insisted on their right to refer to Coach Prime by his first name, pointing out that other famous head coaches allow sportswriters to communicate on a first-name basis. That is not the point. If Oail Andrew Phillips was okay being called Bum Phillips, that is fine. That doesn’t mean you should call everyone “Bum.” The rules is very simple: call the person by whatever name he or she has requested.
If you were at a press conference with the President of the United States, would you refer to him as Mr. President? Or would you insist on using his first name? Would it depend on which political party he belonged to?
If you ever get a chance to interview His Holiness Pope Francis I, you probably would not call him by his given name, Jorge. Or if you would, you would be a jerk of epic proportions.
On the other hand, let’s face it. A lot of people just don’t like Deion Sanders and are not interested in respecting him. Could it be that some people just don’t want African American coaches to succeed?
Coach Jay Norvell sank to a new low. “When I talk to grown-ups, I take my hat and my glasses off. That’s what my mother taught me.”
Have anyone ever heard of that rule? The implication is that Sanders is a boy, and that Sanders’ mother didn’t teach him properly. That is a new low. It is shameful, and Coach Norvell should be put on a leave of absence to undergo sensitivity training. This is awful and goes way beyond the bounds of college rivalry.