Former Florida State Coach Claims Players’ Absent Fathers Lead Them to ‘Be Like Their Mama’

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Retired Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden relied on a debunked myth to jokingly explain why Black boys grow up “wanting to be like their mama.” Bowden, who coached at FSU from 1976 to 2009, seemed to channel George Karl when he proclaimed the lack of a fatherly presence harms male players’ manliness.

While speaking on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” Wednesday, Jan. 4, Bowden reflected on the similarities among his predominantly Black players.

“During my last days at Florida State, 65 to 70 percent of my boys did not have a daddy at home,” Bowden said. “They’re raised by mamas. Thank God for them mamas or grandmamas. Or big sister or aunt. But where’s the man?

“A boy needs a male figure, and the girls do, too,” he continued. “Somebody to discipline them and make them be a man. I used to kid about this, they grew up wanting to be like their mama. They want to be a man like their mama, that’s why they wear earrings.”

Bowden, 87, quickly added that he was joking but Twitter promptly swooped in with criticism.

ESPN host Bomani Jones explained the very thing the elderly ex-coach denounced was something he and others like him take advantage of.

Similarly, @Straight_Lowkey noted the players Bowden referenced helped him head to several championships.

@RJtheLifeCoach tweeted about the ignorance of the former coach’s statements.

Yet at least one person supported the comment.

Later that same day, Bowden, who caught wind of the negative reaction, spoke to the Tallahassee Democrat and claimed he was telling one of his favorite jokes and it was taken the wrong way. He also refused to apologize for the remarks.

“I was kidding about that,” he said. “And I made a statement, ‘Thank goodness for these sweet mothers.’ And I said I was just kidding, but they leave all that part out.”

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