(Todd A. Smith)

University of Florida should have never rescinded high school quarterback Marcus Stokes’ athletic scholarship for using the N-word.

Sure, White people should never use that word.

Honestly, African-Americans should stop pretending that they can turn a racial slur into a term of endearment.

But to try to cancel a young kid and adversely impact his athletic future just because he recited words to a rap song that contained the N-word is the exact reason society should cancel the concept of cancel culture.

Chris Bengel of CBS Sports reported, “The University of Florida withdrew a scholarship offer for Nease High School (Fla.) quarterback Marcus Stokes on Sunday after he posted a video on social media of him rapping along to a song using a racial slur. Sports Illustrated reported that Stokes can be seen in the car in the now deleted video saying, ‘welcome back’ followed by the slur.”

The star quarterback who is White and committed to play for the Florida Gators in July later tweeted, “I deeply apologize for the words in the song that I chose to say…I fully accept the consequences for my actions and I respect the University of Florida’s decision to withdraw my scholarship to play football.”

What Stokes did on video was unwise.

However, it was not racist.

Racism is a very real problem in this country.

Every day, African-Americans must deal with bigotry and discrimination.

Therefore, many African-Americans have become experts at discerning what is racist and who is racist.

Based just on Stokes’ use of the N-word, he is definitely not racist.

He just made a poor decision, which is something that young people frequently do.

But what does society expect to happen when rappers constantly put the N-word in their songs?

Do they think that the only fans that will recite their lyrics verbatim will be the African-American fans?

Hopefully not because that would be foolish for them to think so.

Stokes’ biggest mistake, other than using the N-word, was posting video of himself using the N-word.

The younger generation, and some people from the older generations, need to realize that you do not have to post everything you do or think on social media.

I am pretty sure that some of the players who will keep their scholarships to Florida have said far worse things than Stokes.

But if the school has no proof, then it basically did not happen.

Honestly, it’s never fun to get old.

Your body aches.

Your vision and your hearing get worse.

And you favor sleep over partying, which is so lame.

But one thing I am grateful for is being old enough that I did not come of age during the social media era.

People my age were the last group of people lucky enough to make childish mistakes, which were not recorded and stored on some social media app in perpetuity.

Therefore, controversial things that we said or did at a young age have vanished from memory and can no longer adversely impact our lives.

My generation rapped along to sexist lyrics, homophobic lyrics and all other forms of bigoted lyrics in our automobiles.

But the only thing that saved us is being a little bit older than Stokes and his generation.

By the time social media began blowing up, many of us were too old and wise to make the mistake that Stokes made.

Unfortunately, the youngsters never got to enjoy that luxury.

In fact, they live in a society in which they are encouraged to build their following on social media because going viral with things like athletic highlight clips might lead to getting a scholarship because social media sites like YouTube have made it easier for college scouts to find talented young players who might be off the traditional radar.

Unfortunately, many young people probably do not keep up with the news like older people do.

If Stokes had kept up with the news more, he probably would have known he was making a mistake putting up a video of himself reciting the N-word from a rap song.

Many other people from outside of the African-American community have lost opportunities by doing something that was racially insensitive.

Despite Stokes being wrong, the University of Florida still went too far in rescinding Stokes’ scholarship.

And hopefully another Power Five school will give him an opportunity to shine because African-Americans know racism, and this ain’t it.

This was just a young person being a young person and doing something ill-advised.

Instead of canceling his scholarship or canceling Stokes all together, let’s counsel him and correct him.

Let’s explain to him why this word is offensive.

Honestly, if true American history was taught in the classrooms maybe Stokes would have known the true meaning of the N-word.

Unfortunately, true American history is considered too woke or critical race theory in states like Florida.

Like Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said when he was reelected to the governorship, Florida is where woke goes to die.

Unfortunately, that reality is killing the dreams of young Floridians like Stokes who probably did not understand the history behind the N-word because certain politicians want American history whitewashed to protect the feelings of the real racists.

But one thing I commend about Stokes is that he owned up to his mistake.

He did not make excuses.

He did not blame University of Florida although in my opinion they deserve blame for overreacting.

He apologized and moved on.

A person that can learn from their mistakes and not make excuses will have no problem succeeding in life.

All of us have made mistakes.

The successful people are those who grow from their mistakes.

And Stokes seems to already be a bigger man than some of his critics and cancelers.

Todd A. Smith
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