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Unapologetically Moe: T.J. Moe on speaking up, apologizing, and not apologizing

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“The hunger strike didn’t have anything to do with race, if it was a white kid doing it, I’d have made fun of him just the same.”

TJ Moe Bill Carter (Rock M Nation)

In the second installment of our interview with TJ Moe, Moe explains some of his more inflammatory comments. We continue from the last question of part one.

R: Transitioning away from sports a bit, obviously you were opinionated about some things that happened on campus last year. What led you to be so vocal about the events that unfolded at Mizzou?

M: People ask me all the time, “What do you think you’re getting out of this?” And for me, I wasn’t getting anything out of that. I got yelled at a lot, I don’t think I was getting anything out of it.

For me, I was trying to make people understand that it didn’t make sense to me what was happening. And so, what I was seeing was a group that was so divisive, and it was tearing apart my university that I love. So I was trying to give a counter to that and say, “Guys hold on a minute, this doesn’t make any sense.” And I was trying to lay out some logic.

You can go look at my Twitter mentions at that time — I had five or six thousand in a single week, and it was either people saying, “Finally, somebody speaking their mind,” or people saying, “You’re an idiot, kill yourself.” Right, you’ve got both sides. And I don’t mind.

For me, I never cared too much what anybody thought about what I said or think. That doesn’t bother me. But I did think that it was important that I’m not going out there and just spewing ideas for attention. Because overall, the attention is not helping me any.

You just don’t go along with the mainstream idea just because people have a cause behind it. It has to make logical sense, and people still have to use their brains before you go and make some rash decisions. And I think that’s what we did during that time. So that’s why I tried to speak up and give a counter idea to what I thought made no sense.

R: I can see where you’re coming from. I didn’t agree with everything that occurred. But that still doesn’t give me the right to belittle the movement and make insensitive comments. But you chose to publicly say things that were controversial and clearly rubbed people the wrong way, including some of your former teammates.

How did you address that, and how could you continue to be so nonchalant and unapologetic when the guys that you claim to love and care about so much were obviously bothered by your statements?

M: I love those guys, all of them. Go back through my Twitter. I didn’t get into it with a single person. Now they got into it with me. They go onto my Twitter and they’d rip me. I’m totally fine with that.

My response to all of those guys is listen, you’re welcome to have your opinion of me. I don’t wanna get into it with you guys, I love all of you guys. But these are my thoughts, these are my opinions. I think that at this point for all those guys that are upset with me, just listen.

You guys know me well enough to know that I care about all you guys. If you thought I was a racist, you’d have known that way before today. So if all of a sudden my thoughts on one single circumstance makes me a racist, then so be it. But obviously that’s not the case and they know that.

You can think I’m ignorant, and all that stuff is fine. You are welcome to your opinion, as everybody is. But you’re not gonna stop me from having my opinion. That’s kinda the bottom line there.

I think that everyone has gotten over that. I’m sure that there are some people that don’t like me. I’m blocked on Twitter by a lot of guys, which I’m fine with. But overall, I think in general that’s something that’s blown over.

Anytime that you get into race, it’s a touchy subject. If you’re willing to voice your opinion on something even if it’s not popular, then you gotta be prepared for some backlash. That’s what happened and I’m totally fine with it. I realize that’s a delicate subject that at any time can be taken to a place that you don’t want it to be taken.

We have a bad history in this country of treating people miserably, for no reason other than the way they look. I get all of that. I just think that at this point, we have come so far from that, let’s not move back that way and be so divisive because every time something happens we overreact and fire everybody.

That was my thought, at no point in time did I claim that racism is dead. I don’t think that racism is dead. But to blame the person in charge of a university because somebody that we aren’t sure is a student said something mean is pretty absurd.

University of Missouri President Resigns As Protests Grow over Racism
Concerned Student 1950 (November 2015)
Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

R: Since you don’t agree with their reaction, what would have been a more appropriate response? I think that it is fair for African-American students to protest when things are occurring on this campus that make them feel unwelcome. I mean we pay a lot of money to attend this university. How would you prefer that they voice their displeasure?

M: The athletes or CS 1950?

R: Both

M: I fell like the athletes jumped in uninformed, and I think that’s the biggest problem. If they would have gotten a full story and understood what was going on, I kinda think that (the protest) wouldn’t have happened. So for the athletes, you sit back and gather facts and really look at them before you make decisions like they did and call for the firing of people who have no involvement in what is happening. There’s just a lot to it. We could go forever digging up all the details.

I ended up going on some of the big cable networks. I was on CNN, MSNBC, Fox and all those during the protests. And one of the thing that I thought was, okay, so what we’re saying is we don’t like some of the stuff that’s happening on campus. I don’t think that anyone is disagreeing with that right. If you show me somebody that’s ignorant and crazy and saying absurd things. Like nobody is gonna say, hey man that’s super, I love that, we need more of that shit. That just doesn’t happen. But at the same time, I don’t think that you go and fire everybody.

Everyone got upset with President Wolfe for not listening. What was he not listening to? Because within the system, they already had a sensitivity training class in progress. If people really wanna make a difference, what are the two places in life that race really doesn’t matter at all? One of them we know is sports. Sports has basically been the single best thing that we’ve had that has transcended race over the last 50 years.

The other one is war. If it’s 1950, and you and I are in a foxhole together, any hate that we have towards each other due to skin color is gonna be put aside because we have to cover each other’s ass or we are gonna die. So, to me, you have speakers come in and talk about that kinda stuff.

Shoot, I could’ve been chosen to talk to students. L’Damian Washington is one of my best friends. He’s a kid from the hood in Shreveport that lost both of his parents within a year of each other. We couldn’t have had more different lives, but we came to Missouri and became some of the closest friends you could imagine.

L’Damian Washington and Moe got into it on social media following Moe’s protest comments.
Bill Carter (Rock M Nation)

R: I understand that you weren’t pleased with the protests, but how is making sarcastic jokes about going on a hunger strike until Missouri hires a coach or asking if people need a safe space helping anything? Don’t you think that mocking their cause is going too far?

M: The way I saw the whole thing is that he’s threatening his own life. Take out of context that this was a hunger strike. Say he had strapped a bomb to his chest and said if this doesn’t happen by the 25th day, then I’m gonna kill myself. Don’t we consider that terrorism? That is domestic terrorism.

Everybody wants to be sensitive about everything all the time. The whole setup was absurd. A guy was threatening because someone said something that he thought was unfair. The issue was already being addressed.

I think that we get very offended over things that are meant in satire. Me and my buddies walk around all the time, just joking around, and I’m not trying to get at anyone. Everybody’s always like “aight stay woke fam.” We’re just having fun.

Guys can get upset. I’m not trying to attack your character or you. But overall I think that guys need to take a breath and realize that life isn’t so crazy all the time, and people are allowed to make some jokes.

R: I can understand making jokes and things of that nature, but the things that you were saying were in a public forum. Once the involved groups made it clear that they didn’t find it funny, a reasonable person would stop. You didn’t. I feel like if you were on the receiving end and you were being mistreated and dealing with people openly mocking your movement, it wouldn’t be so funny.

M: I won’t ever sit up here and try to tell you that I know what you’re feeling. Because I totally don’t. Everyone says that you’ll never know how the other person is feeling, which is true, but it’s not just a black and white thing. It’s a person to person thing. We could be from the same neighborhood, same household, play on the same team, and you still wouldn’t fully understand how I’m feeling.

While we wanna be sensitive to each other and love each other and be respectful, no one in this world is looking out for you or me. How many people are you really worried about offending on a daily basis? I’m not walking around trying to offend people, but people get offended no matter what. There are so many things that are considered offensive.

The hunger strike didn’t have anything to do with black or white. I could understand if you said that is obviously a racist thing [in regards to Moe making hunger strike jokes], but the hunger strike didn’t have anything to do with race. If it was a white kid doing it, I’d have made fun of him just the same.

R: I think that it would be easier for people to look past your comments if this was an isolated incident. But you make these kinds of incendiary comments all the time. For instance, you called out your own teammate [James Franklin] and blamed the loss to Florida on him breaking up with his girlfriend.

M: Yeah, I regret saying that. My point was that James had never thrown four interceptions his entire career. My point wasn’t to say that, James, you broke up with your girlfriend, you weren’t there, you played terrible. My point was to say that James was going through a hard time. His head wasn’t there and he didn’t play like he normally does.

I’m sure you won’t believe me or anyone else, but I was trying to justify why he played like that. Because it was so out of character. James never threw four interceptions. In fact, after a pick, James would sometimes get tentative to where he wouldn’t throw the ball if there was a lot of people around because he didn’t wanna turn the ball over again. He was not a turnovers guy, it just wasn’t in his character.

My intent was not to be a jerk. It was something that I regret saying. I wish that I could take that back because I think that’s his personal life and not something that should be anybody else’s business. But I was honestly just trying to justify why a good player was not playing well and had such an off day.

R: Do you think that it’s a coincidence that you always find yourself in these situations where you have to defend yourself? Do you ever think to yourself maybe I should just sit this one out?

M: Like what?

R: You calling James out about his girlfriend, your protests comments. Do you ever just look in the mirror and say, “TJ, maybe I shouldn’t say this.” It always seems like you’re on the defensive.

M: I don’t really play defense. When do I have to defend myself? I just give you my opinion.

I’m not making these things up. I’m not being Skip Bayless. I’m not just saying things to create controversy. I’m telling you what I actually think. Like the Black Lives Matter stuff, I’m Tweeting out FBI statistics. So I’m telling you what the actual statistics are. You might not agree with that, but that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. It doesn’t mean that I’m right either, but bottom line, we don’t have to agree on everything, and I don’t have to look out for everyone else’s feelings every time I make a statement.

With James, I do think that that was something that should stay inside the locker room. I do regret saying that. I’m not above apologizing, and I’m not above having my opinions being questioned. The things that I say are not always right. There are times that I go back and rethink them, like we talked about with James. I was wrong. Factually I wasn’t wrong, but it was just something that shouldn’t have been shared.

I later asked TJ Moe to explain the altercation that occurred after the Kentucky game. Initially, Moe said that he didn’t recall the event that I was referring to. After I jogged his memory, by reading the Twitter exchange between Moe and former Missouri players EJ Gaines and L’Damian Washington, TJ said that he’d rather keep that internal but assured me that, “it wasn’t anything too crazy.”