NFL stars DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson are calling for their alma mater Clemson University to remove the name John C. Calhoun from the school’s honors college. Calhoun, who was vice president under the John Quincy Adams administration, was an outspoken white supremacist who advocated for slavery.
Hopkins revealed in an Instagram post Monday that he purposely omits the university’s name from player introductions before NFL games because he “felt this oppressive figure” during his three years at Clemson. The Arizona Cardinals wide-receiver is now joining a growing petition by students of the school requesting Calhoun’s name to be taken down.
“I am joining the voices of the students and faculty who have restarted this petition to rename the Calhoun Honors College,” he said. “I urge all Clemson students, football players, and alumni to join us, so the next generation of young Black leaders can be proud of the institution they graduate from. Now is the time for change.”
Watson, who went to the school for three years and Hopkins’ former Houston Texans teammate, also echoed the sentiment.
“Clemson University should not honor slave owner John C. Calhoun in any way,” Watson tweeted. “His name should be removed from all University property and programming. I am joining the students, faculty & DeAndre to restart this petition to rename the Calhoun Honors College.”
According to Clemson’s bio page of Calhoun, he was a slave owner and even owned a plantation on where the campus stands today. The school itself characterized Calhoun as an “ardent believer in white supremacy.”
The petition advocated by Hopkins and Watson has more than 7,500 signatures as of Monday morning. Organizers of the petition specifically noted the university president’s recent comments that it wouldn’t tolerate racism “in any form” — and wrote that the “time for action is overdue.”
CBS News reached out to the university for comment on the petition, but did not immediately respond to the request.
It’s not the first time Calhoun’s name has been removed from a prominent university. In 2017, Yale University renamed one of its residential colleges that had his name after years of debate and protests.
Calls to remove Calhoun’s name are part of a global reckoning in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Statues from racist leaders or members of the Confederacy are being toppled or removed in cities throughout the United States. In England, the statue of a slave trader was thrown into Bristol Harbor.