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Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney pulls out of event sponsored by anti-gay group

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The coach said he has no association with the group and didn't want appearance to be a distraction.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney has decided to not attend a fund-raising dinner June 2 sponsored by South Carolina's Palmetto Family Council, which is opposed to equal rights for LGBT people.

Swinney issued this statement today:

"I was recently selected by the Palmetto Family Council, an organization with which I have no association, as their 'South Carolina Family Champion of 2015' and was invited to receive this recognition at an event sponsored by the group on June 2. I had no idea that I was being invited into a political controversy. It was my understanding that the nomination and election for this award was based on the work done by our "All In Foundation" and the difference it is making in our community. My acceptance of this award was to be on behalf of all the volunteers that make our foundation a success. The work of our foundation is intended to build a better community and be a positive influence.

"Recently, my scheduled participation in this event has been perceived incorrectly as an endorsement of certain viewpoints and has entered the political arena. I have been out of town since last Thursday and am disappointed that this has become a distraction for me, my team and many others. I have been and continue to be very open about my personal beliefs. However, I do not inject those beliefs or the work of the foundation into the political process.

"I appreciate the recognition of my and the foundation's efforts. However, after much thought, in order to avoid a distraction for the team and the entire football program, I've decided it is in the best interests of all involved that I not attend the event on June 2."

The Palmetto Family Council is a lobbying group opposed to same-sex marriage and it is against a South Carolina bill that would prevent "discrimination in employment base on sexual orientation or 'gender identity.'" On their website is a link to an article on the "Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex Marriage."

This is an anti-gay group and Swinney was wise to pull out of the event. Clemson's own non-discrimination policy is at odds with what the Palmetto Family Council stands for: "Clemson University does not discriminate against any individual or group of individuals on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or veteran's status or genetric information." His attendance at the fundraiser would have implied his endorsement of their views.

Reaction came in quickly from GLAAD and a Clemson student at the forefront of the push for Swinney to pull out:

"We are thrilled to hear of Coach Swinney's decision to withdraw from the Palmetto Family Council event," said William Bar Ta'oma, the Clemson student who launched the petition. "While we would have preferred a repudiation of this group's stances, we appreciate that he has chosen to avoid the controversy altogether. We trust that Coach Swinney will continue to represent and uphold the principles of inclusion that are core to Clemson University."

"Coach Swinney demonstrated the leadership for which he is known in standing for love and acceptance," said GLAAD Vice President of Zeke Stokes. "As a native South Carolinian, I couldn't be more proud of the people who stood with him for inclusion in the face of division."