Since being stripped of his role as a team captain and missing the Tigers’ next two games as punishment for making a derogatory racial comment on social media on Oct. 3, Katy junior quarterback Bronson McClelland has received a significant amount of backlash, but also strong support of his character and of a young man who made a regrettable mistake.
“Bronson is going to use it as a learning experience,” Katy coach Gary Joseph said. “Not just the social media part, but the humility part. I’ve talked to him about the Andy Daltons, Bo Levi Mitchells, Garrett Doirons, Rob Peters’. They were all Katy quarterbacks with great character, not only as quarterbacks but as people. I expect him to be the same.”
Following Katy’s 35-30 win over Tompkins last Thursday, an eight-second Snapchat video was made public on Twitter showing McClelland, 17, cursing and using a racial slur, the N-word.
“After last nights win over the Tompkins Falcons I made comments on social media that were not appropriate under any circumstances,” McClelland wrote in a statement released on his Twitter account at 2:59 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4. “Being in a leadership role, I put my family, teammates, coaches, school and community in a bad light.”
Joseph said he has talked to his players and been upfront about the issue multiple times since it happened.
“They understand he’s one of our teammates, and they understand that it was not meant to be a divisive thing at all,” Joseph said. “It’s a slang term. It’s stuff they hear every day, and that doesn’t make it right, by any stretch of the imagination. It shows no respect for people that came before you. You get caught in emotion. From what I understand, it wasn’t even directed at anybody. It was sent to a kid at Seven Lakes.
“I hate it for the distraction it’s become. He’s been punished for it, and they understand now … I’ve said from the very beginning of the year, it’s best to stay off social media.”
Since the incident, many of McClelland’s teammates, of all races, came to his defense on social media. Some said they stood by the quarterback. Others said the video does not represent McClelland as an individual.
Katy junior Elijah Stewart, a football player, posted an emotional video on Twitter late Sunday night, Oct. 6, speaking up for McClelland.
Stewart said he posted the video because people “need to know Bronson McClelland.” Stewart said he has a “messed up family situation” and McClelland was attentive to that, waking up earlier every morning so that he can drive Stewart to school instead of Stewart having to walk. Stewart said the McClelland family has given him food and clothes, awarding a “real sense of love that I never felt from my family.”
“I can testify that Bronson is not what you call racist,” Stewart said in the video. “I’m a black male speaking out and I don’t do race; I don’t like when people start throwing out the N-word. I’m wrong for it; I say it, too. I just want to say for all you out there wanting to jump on this case, that if you truly know Bronson, you know he has a servant’s heart. I want to say thank you to Bronson.”
You don’t know Bronson. @Katyfootball @bronson1201 @KatyTimesSports @HoustonChronHS @footwork_king1 @FootballKaty @chrisharris911 @abc13sports @KPRC2sports @Fast7v7 @vypehouston @densilva2 pic.twitter.com/nrUa6IockR— Elijah Stewart (@edawgg2021) October 7, 2019
Stewart’s video had more than 32,000 views as of Tuesday morning and has mostly generated a positive reaction.
“Let them know EDAWG!!” senior Katy defensive back Daylin Johnson tweeted in response to Stewart. “We know who our real qb is.”
Other teammates, like senior defensive back Bryan Massey, retweeted a tweet from former Katy football player Colby Kelley saying McClelland is not racist and that the whole situation is being blown out of proportion.
McClelland’s father, Colburn, posted a statement on Facebook over the weekend.
“My son made a poor decision and used a very insensitive word of which we do not condone in our home,” Colburn’s post read. “We do not see color in our home as we all bleed red. Anyone that knows Bronson and who attends school with him or who has played ball with him knows his heart and they know he is not racist.”
Katy ISD released a statement on Oct. 4 saying campus administration, Katy ISD police and local law enforcement thoroughly investigated the video incident. The district noted in its statement that there are related incidents still under investigation that would lead to additional consequences for any student involved.
Joseph said McClelland wasn’t alone in the incident. Joseph said there were other Katy players on social media challenging authority and that that was being handled in-house.
“Hopefully they’ll learn something from it,” Joseph said.
McClelland has completed 44 of 73 passes for 837 yards and eight touchdowns to three interceptions in five games this season and ranks second in District 19-6A in passing.The No. 2 state-ranked and No. 10 nationally-ranked Tigers are 5-0 overall, 1-0 in district. They play Morton Ranch on Friday and Seven Lakes next week.
Senior Jacob Bernard, Katy’s No. 2 quarterback, is the probable starter for Friday’s game against the Mavericks. Sophomore Bryce Nirider is the No. 3 quarterback. Both Bernard and Nirider, Joseph said, will play.
McClelland can return when Katy plays Cinco Ranch on Oct. 25.
“Bronson has good leadership qualities,” Joseph said. “But he can’t be a part-time leader or a part-time quarterback. People think it’s like Baker Mayfield; it’s OK. No. It’s not OK here. There is a higher responsibility at Katy High School than other schools; you’re a more visible person.”