Dean Smith, who died Saturday at the age of 83, was a legendary basketball coach best known for his 36 years coaching at the University of North Carolina where he oversaw a record number of victories.
He was also adamant about ending capital punishment in this country.
He visited prisons, counseled inmates on Death Row, and even confronted the North Carolina governor on the issue.
“You’re a murderer,” Smith said to Gov. Jim Hunt during a meeting in Raleigh. He then pointed at an aide and others in the room. “And you’re a murderer, and you’re a murderer, and I’m a murderer. The death penalty makes us all murderers.”
It’s not often that a famous sports figure addresses such a political topic, but Smith made his lifelong opposition to the death penalty known. He said numerous times that state sponsored killing is immoral, unfair, and ineffective.
“I do not condone any violence against any of God’s children, and that is why I am opposed to the death penalty,” he wrote in his autobiography.
Smith often invoked his religious beliefs to explain his opposition, but he also spoke about his fears of killing the innocent and the racial injustice of the court system.
Support for capital punishment is dropping nationwide, and we hope to see more public figures take a stand like Coach Smith.