Florida State University President John Thrasher, who recently took action against an FSU vendor who was accused of being racially insensitive, faced similar allegations in 2000.
It was revealed last week that Sam Childers, a principal with Childers Construction, was accused of violating “FSU’s core values” when a picture recently surfaced of him dressed up like Bob Marley at a Halloween party in 2015.
After reviewing the incident and receiving a letter of apology from Childers, Thrasher ended any future business relationship with Childers Construction.
Tiger Bay Club
Thrasher faced similar allegations related to racial insensitivities during an appearance at the Tallahassee Tiger Bay Club in 2000. His comments made state-wide news.
Reports indicate that Thrasher – then Florida House Speaker – used a basketball analogy with racial overtones to describe a black state senator’s opposition to ending state-wide affirmative action policies.
Thrasher was supporting then-Governor Bush’s controversial One Florida initiative which was designed to eliminate racial preferences in education and government contracting and base decisions on individual merit.
During his address to Tiger Bay, Thrasher said, ” I truly have believed that white men couldn’t jump. I believed that until I started working around Kendrick Meek.”
The joke – aimed at state Senator Kendrick Meek – fell flat and Meek was not amused. Meek responded by saying, ” I am praying for Mr. Thrasher.”
A former official with the NAACP said the joke was out of line and that Thrasher owed Meek an apology.
Republican Florida Senate President Toni Jennings, who attended the Tiger Bay meeting, said “there wasn’t anything funny about it.”
After chiding the media for reporting the incident as “real news”, Thrasher eventually issued an apology. He stated, “It was never my intention to offend anyone and I regret if any offense was taken.”
The two incidents occurred years apart in very different political environments. But the responses by Childers and Thrasher to being accused of racial insensitivities were remarkably similar.
Thrasher said he did not intend to offend anyone and regretted his actions.
Childers apologized and said “I deeply regret my actions that have caused hurt and offense to anyone.”
Thrasher said he was attempting a joke at a luncheon that is known for raucous banter.
Childers explained that he dressed up as Bob Marley for a Halloween party, not to make some racial statement.
After the incident, Thrasher finished his term as House Speaker and went on to become a powerful lobbyist, then a member of the Florida Senate and was appointed the President of FSU in 2014.
However, the fate of Sam Childers and Childers Construction is still unfolding.
Tallahassee Reports reached out to President Thrasher for a comment on his previous experience with being accused of racial insensitivities and if that experience had any impact on his decision-making process in the Childers situation.
An FSU spokesperson responded with the following statement:
“Florida State University expects civil and respectful conduct from everyone who does business with the university. Mr. Childers’ behavior conflicts with the university’s values of inclusivity and respect for all members of the community, and Florida State University is in the process of ending its partnership with Childers Construction. Two existing contracts with the company for projects near completion will be honored.”
The spokesperson also said, “The university has nothing else to add.”