A few days ago, we posted about a disturbing comment allegedly made by McKenzie High School football announcer Allen Joyner before Friday’s game. It was reported by Denise Crowley-Whitfield, who posted about it on Facebook (and later deleted that post along with the rest of her account):
“If you don’t want to stand for the National Anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots AT you since they’re taking shots FOR you.”
It was a shocking statement for a number of reasons. Joyner’s day job is being the pastor at Sweet Home Baptist Church and that didn’t sound very pastor-ly. He appeared to be advocating violence for those committing acts of civil disobedience. And he was doing it at a high school football game.
And his church supported him! They issued this statement the next day… before also deleting their Facebook account.
We stand by our pastor and are proud of him. What was said was taken out of context and misquoted several times over. For all of our members, remember the words of Matthew 5:38-39 and don’t try to retaliate or fight any of the negative comments. Anyone who has anything negative to say on our page will be banned and ignored.
They didn’t explain what was taken out of context. And it seemed like a strange thing to say. After all, he said it or he didn’t. In what context would his words be acceptable?
The District’s superintendent quickly condemned his actions:
Butler County Schools Superintendent Amy Bryan denounced Joyner’s comments in a statement to AL.com.
“Patriotism should be a part of school events but threats of shooting people who aren’t patriotic, even in jest, have no place at a school,” she wrote in an email. “Threats of violence are a violation of school policy and certainly not condoned by the school board.”
Bryan said she didn’t know if any action will be taken against Joyner. The school board meets next week, and the matter could be addressed then, she said.
So where are we at now?
Jonathan Bryant of the Greenville Advocate reports that Joyner has stepped down as announcer of those football games. And we’re finally hearing his side of the story:
Joyner, pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church, said Monday in an email submitted to Bryan that his words were taken out of context.
“I deeply regret that the comments I made were misquoted,” Joyner said in the email.
“The dear lady that posted the comment on Facebook was paying our school a compliment. I never said anybody should be shot. My words were ‘if you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, please go sit at the baseball field and let some of our folks take a shot at reminding you of the price our military paid for your freedom to sit.’ I never advocated violence of any kind… just an opportunity to educate.”
Joyner, who said he served in the Alabama National Guard for 20 years, added that he had numerous commendations to verify his passion for his country.
“As a Christian, I would never support unlawful acts of any kind, much less murder,” Joyner continued.
It’s hard to verify his statement with audio or video from the game, but let’s take him at his word. Here’s what I’d like to know:
How did Crowley-Whitfield misinterpret his statement that badly? What she reported on Facebook sounded downright poetic. It had wordplay. It had rhetorical flourish. What Joyner claimed to say sounds really clunky. More importantly, it’s not like she misheard a word or two — she got the entire thing wrong.
Why did his own family members support the violent statement that was originally reported instead of issuing a correction? You would think people close to him would be quick to correct the record. Instead, screenshots provided to this site show his own family members sharing and praising Crowley-Whitfield’s interpretation of his words:
Somehow, all those people close to Joyner read her account… and celebrated it. They didn’t find his alleged commentary odd at all, even though Joyner now says that’s not the way he thinks or speaks.
Even without the violent imagery, why was Joyner, in his version of his statement, criticizing those who don’t stand for the National Anthem? His personal politics have no place in his work as a high school announcer. Also, it’s incredibly ignorant to say people who love their country — but want to fix its flaws — are part of the problem. The people who need to be educated are the ones who assume our country is perfect as it is.
Just to make this explicitly clear, Joyner wasn’t paid by the District and the District shouldn’t be punished for his actions. He took on a voluntary role as an announcer and gave up that privilege over the weekend. But he should have stepped down even if his version of the statement was the one that everyone heard, because what he said was still wrong. Just because you don’t advocate for murder doesn’t make your commentary appropriate.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)