A Texas high school has revoked a speaking invitation extended to famed former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz as a result of anti-immigration comments he made during the Republican National Convention in July.
Holtz was last week announced as a guest speaker at the 90th anniversary gala of Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas, but organizers have since revoked the offer after complaints regarding the 79-year-old’s RNC remarks in which he referred to immigration as an “invasion” and insinuated that immigrants should abandon their own cultures completely once entering the US.
The grandson of Ukrainian immigrants, Holtz complained “I don't want to become you” at a luncheon hosted by the Republican National Coalition for Life.
“I don’t want to speak your language. I don’t want to celebrate your holidays. I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your soccer team!” he continued.
The former coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish has since said he wished he had not made the comments, but that was not enough to quell the backlash when the Catholic boys school, which welcomes students from both sides of the US-Mexican border, announced him as a speaker for their annual gala, which works to raise scholarship money for their students.
A number of former and current students at the majority Hispanic school made their concern about his invention known and just six days later the gala organizers announced the invitation had been revoked.
President of the Council of Presidents at Cathedral, David Saucedo II confirmed to the El Paso Times last week that Holtz would no longer be appearing at the gala, which is to take place on October 20.
"So you know, we engaged with Holtz before the RNC and subsequent statements," Saucedo told the paper.
A 1963 graduate of Cathedral High School, Luis Villalobos, told the El Paso Times he believes it was the right decision: “Public figures have to know, even during this election time, their words have consequences. They can speak before a very enthusiastic crowd, but they can’t say things that are insulting to any group, whether it be a minority group, women or whatever group they are railing against.”
“Imagine the impact the coach’s words would have had if he had spoken about inclusion or if he would have spoken about being merciful and accepting of all people in this country and instead of dividing, uniting people? His comments would have been incredibly impactful.”
While some have welcomed the decision to ax Holtz, others feel it was a wasted opportunity to alter his opinions on immigration by welcoming him into the school.
Saucedo himself defended the decision for this reason, criticizing “the negative, vitriolic response” of some members of their community to Holtz’s invitation.
“It’s difficult to change someone’s mind on immigration if you immediately shun them. We love the concept of free speech, up until there is disagreement, then we are quick to slander and smear those individuals,” he wrote.
“Our community boldly exemplifies the vibrancy of being bicultural and binational – we are a community that gets it. However, we allow the immigration topic to be debated in areas of our country that are hundreds of miles away from the border, leading to regrettable misconceptions.
“Our gala is not a political event, but if it can serve as a platform to bring attention to our great city and start an honest dialogue on immigration, then it’s a success.”
Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008, Lou Holtz served as the head coach for six NCAA football teams including Notre Dame and the University of South Carolina, compiling a career record of 249–132–7. He led Notre Dame to a national championship in 1988 and is also a former college football analyst with ESPN.
In May, Holtz featured on Donald Trump’s Twitter page in a video in which he endorsed the Republican Presidential candidate, citing Trump’s golf courses and hotels as proof of his strength as a leader.