Rep. Jack Williams wants apology from Gov. Bentley after UAB foo - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Rep. Jack Williams wants apology from Gov. Bentley after UAB football joke

Rep. Jack Williams wants Bentley to show better leadership in the fight over UAB football. (Source: WBRC video) Rep. Jack Williams wants Bentley to show better leadership in the fight over UAB football. (Source: WBRC video)
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Last week Governor Robert Bentley made a joke that one state lawmaker doesn't find funny and now that lawmaker wants an apology.

During the meeting on Nurses Day at the state capital Governor Robert Bentley turned to the nursing students from UAB and said, "Do you guys have a football team up there?" 

Vestavia Hills Representative Jack Williams, a vocal UAB supporter, fired off a letter Monday for an apology. 

"Just amplifies this board of trustees has a severe disconnect with the city of Birmingham, Jefferson County and UAB," Williams said.

Bentley sits as head of the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees. Many UAB supporters believe pressure from the board led UAB President Dr. Ray Watts to terminate the football program. It's a claim the board has denied. 

The loss of the football program has spurred protest and strong emotion on the UAB campus. Williams plans to introduce legislation later this week which will restructure the board of trustees and give UAB a greater say in decisions.

"I'm not saying the governor is a bully but actions by the UA System Board make the UAB family feel bullied by this board," Williams said. 

Recently, about 200 UAB supporters went to Montgomery to lobby lawmakers to pass legislation restoring the football team or alter the board of trustees. While the governor may have been joking Williams is calling on Bentley to get active in their dispute. 

"I'm not demanding an ultimatum, 'Apologize or else.' I'm saying two things. Apologize to our students and as chair of the board of trustees show some leadership. Let's work together to solve these problems," Williams said. 

So far Governor Bentley's Press Office has yet to respond to Williams' letter.

Read Rep. Williams' full letter below:

March 16, 2015

Dear Governor Bentley,

I was greatly alarmed to learn of the remarks you made to the UAB nursing students at the State Capitol last week on Nurses Day.

It was recounted to me that when you recognized the UAB students you then smiled and asked, "Do you guys have a football team up there?"

Governor, I have known you for a long time and I do not believe you are a malicious or meanspirited person - but that remark was way out of line and our students were offended. The students from UAB did not go to Montgomery to be ridiculed by the Governor. I am certain many of them would have stayed home had they known their Governor would make them the butt of a cruel joke.

I know you are a decent and compassionate gentleman and I would like to take this opportunity to request a public apology to our UAB students. After the turmoil our administration and the Board of Trustees have put them through this academic year they deserve this much, at least.

But Governor, to a broader point, the fact that you would make that statement, even as a joke, and not recognize how sensitive this issues is speaks volumes to the disconnect that exist between the Board of Trustees, that you are Chairman of, and this student body and our community.

Most bullies, whether aware their deeds are wrong or not, defend their actions by saying, "I was only playing," or "we were just kidding around," or "I was only having a little fun."

Our students, faculty, alumni and many fans and supporters in our community and around our state feel bullied by the actions of the UA System Board, that you chair, and the UAB Administration. We feel our voices are ignored and our dreams and hopes for our University are of no value to those currently in power. Your words last week serve only to reinforce those feelings.

Some argue that the Governor's position as Chairman of the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees is simply a ceremonial position. I would argue that constitutionally you are the head of this Board.

Unfortunately Governor, for four months you have remained silent. I urge you to lead. Look deep into your soul and ask yourself the question "Is this Board acting in the best interest of all the students in the system and the communities that these students study in and the communities they came from."

I understand that you are from Tuscaloosa and a die-hard Alabama fan. However, this is so much bigger than football. I would remind you that 87% of the students at UAB come from within the state of Alabama. In Tuscaloosa only 48% of the student body comes from instate. Let's be fair to the hard working Alabama families that are paying for a child to attend UAB and helping fund, with their tax dollars, the education of almost 20,000 out state students in Tuscaloosa. Let me add we welcome those out of state students and their money - we are only asking for fairness.

This is not a UAB vs. UA battle. Many students and faculty in Tuscaloosa support the issues raised at UAB. The issue is fairness. As Governor and Chairman of the Board of Trustees I would urge you to begin to call various factions together and let's work together to solve problems.

One hundred years ago strong, hard working men mined iron ore out of Red Mountain to make steel. Mining made you tough, it demonstrated daily how much a man can endure to do what's right and take care for his family.

That toughness is infectious and it's passed down from generation to generation. It was the children and grandchildren of those miners who stood up in the 1960's to the repressive establishment forces of segregation - and they changed a nation.

UAB stands in the shadow of Red Mountain. The toughness and determination that flows out of that mountain flows through the souls of the UAB family. We are tough, we are resolute, our wills are as strong as the iron that Red Mountain's ore produced and we are not going away.

In conclusion Governor please apologize to our students, use this as a learning experience and work with me to bring these factions together to find solutions that are equitable for all parties involved.

Thank you for your service and your leadership.

Sincerely,

/sig/

Jack Williams

State Representative

District 47

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