Fan post suggesting FSU coach lynching prompts investigation

Florida State's president defends Willie Taggart after racist post

By Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief, Jason Mealey - Producer/assignment editor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State University President John Thrasher is calling a fan's social media post depicting football coach Willie Taggart getting lynched "ignorant and despicable."

FSU ended a disappointing first season under Taggart with a loss Saturday to in-state rival University of Florida. Many fans took to social media, expressing their disappointment.

But one Facebook post included a meme depicting Taggart, who is black, being lynched, along with the words: "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing your rep."

State Attorney Jack Campbell opened an investigation shortly after the post appeared, but it’s not clear if the post rises to the level of a criminal act.

"Right now it's an active criminal investigation,” said Campbell. “Coach Taggert is a husband, a father. He deserves the protections of the full force of this office."

Florida State University Police and the Leon County Sheriff’s Officer are also investigating.
In a statement issued Sunday, Thrasher said "Coach Taggart has our full support" and is a "respected member of the FSU family."

The Seminoles finished a disappointing 5-7 season with a 41-14 loss to rival Florida. The loss ended Florida State's 36-year bowl streak.

Taggart, the first black football head coach in Florida State history, was hired last December from Oregon.

“I love Willie Taggert,” Thrasher said. Monday. "And we’re going to make sure we wrap our arms around him and make sure he understands we care about him at Florida State University.”

The racist Facebook post has been taken down and the man who posted it was fired from his job with Hilton Grand Vacations, which issued this statement Monday:

"Our concern regarding this situation has been a top priority. The person responsible for posting this information has been terminated. His behavior was in violation of multiple company policies and the furthest example from being a reflection of our company’s values."

While condemning the post, Thrasher called for leniency.

"You know, I don’t want him punished in some ways, but he really made a really serious mistake, and he needs to understand that,” Thrasher said.

The post also ended any questions about Taggert’s future after a disappointing first season. Thrasher said the coach will absolutely be back next season.

News4Jax reached out to Taggert Monday but were told he wouldn’t be doing any interviews.

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