It was from this fund that Jordan loaned Carlos $80 last November to help him pay for a $247.50 class ring. After Carlos missed several payment dates, Jordan, in his capacity as athletic director, suspended him from the basketball team. He told Carlos a parable his father had imparted to him: If you feed a dog and the dog bites your hand, you stop feeding the dog. Jordan then decided to reinstate Carlos and confiscate the ring until the debt was settled. Soon Carlos paid the debt.
During the summer Carlos visited relatives in Washington, D.C. While there, he received a call from his brother, David, who told him the word around town was that Mickey would definitely be the quarterback. On July 31, after returning home, Carlos confronted Jordan, who refused to reconsider his decision.
Hearing of the dispute from a friend, Singleton sent his son, Hank, to speak with Carlos. Singleton, 57, is the pastor of the Cherry Hill Baptist Church and the president of the Conway branch of the NAACP On Aug. 16, he invited Carlos, his mother, Katherine Thomas, other black players, their parents and members of the community to his home to discuss Jordan's decision. The group debated, among other things, whether racial discrimination had played a role. Players were questioned by the adults. "They said if a white quarterback had played last year and had that record, they didn't think Chuck would move him," says Thomas. The following day Thomas met with Jordan and insisted that her son be reinstated at quarterback. Jordan stood firm.
On Aug. 21, one week before the start of classes and four days before the Tigers' season opener, 30 or so black players walked into Jordan's office and asked the coach to explain his decision. Jordan outlined his reasons for the switch and told them, "You're going to play on my football team, you're going to play on my terms." The players put on their pads and practiced. Later that day the black players and hundreds of other members of the black community filed into Singleton's 54-year-old church to decide on a course of action.
After an hour and a half, Singleton asked everyone but the players to leave. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people had gathered outside the church, spilling over the front steps onto Racepath Avenue and around the corner onto Highway 501. Thirty minutes later the players emerged to announce their decision to strike, and asked that Singleton be their spokesman. There was delirium. "Get fired up!" soon became the strikers" rallying cry.
During a 34-6 loss to Hillcrest in the opening game, the striking players sat near the south end of the Graveyard. With each Hillcrest score, they shouted, "We want Carlos!" and "It's time to take the scrubs off the field!" The cheers incensed some whites in the stands. "It was tough not to send in the police," says principal Thomas Lewis, who is white. "But they had paid their four dollars."
On Aug. 28, the first day of classes, the parents of 61 of the roughly 80 white students in Singleton's classes demanded that their children be assigned another teacher. The next day Horry County school superintendent John Dawsey suspended Singleton from his teaching duties, saying he had disrupted Conway Middle School by accusing Jordan of racist actions. In response, a handful of black parents told Dawsey that they would keep their children out of algebra classes taught by Jordan at the high school. Dawsey did not relent. Singleton subsequently sued both Dawsey and the school board, claiming his First Amendment rights to free speech had been violated. On Nov. 18, a recommendation to fire Singleton was upheld by a 5-1 vote of the school board, with one abstention. Singleton's suit has not yet been heard.
Singleton has been a powerful voice for Conway's black community for more than a decade. Throughout the fall his church has been the scene of meetings almost every weeknight. Some in Conway believe Singleton pressures the players at these sessions. However, in sworn testimony at Singleton's suspension hearing, two parents said that he never leads the meetings, and that the players are always given time alone. "Where there is parental guidance, people think it's excessive if it's black," says Singleton. "But we have to guide our children, too. We'd rather have them misguided by us than manipulated by the system."
Singleton says that Jordan's parable after Carlos was slow in repaying the $80 loan drew a demeaning comparison between Carlos and a dog, and that Carlos's suspension from the basketball team was a "personal vendetta." At one meeting Singleton told the striking players, "Chuck Jordan has no more respect for you than he does for lower animals." In Singleton's view the racism of Jordan's act was in the "stereotyping" of Carlos as a nonquarterback and in the peremptory nature of the change.
"He gave my position to someone without a tryout, and that wasn't right," says Carlos. "If the recruiters wanted to switch me, they could have done that in college. [Coach Jordan] didn't have to mess up my senior year, putting me at a position I didn't want to play."