National Institute on Aging

Artist Agrees to Redo Mural After Objections to His Depiction of Vanderbilt’s New Football Coach

MasonRecently, a mural of Vanderbilt University head coashes on a building in downtown Nashville was revised to include an image of the new head football coach, Derek Mason. In January, Mason was hired to replace head coach James Franklin who left to take the head coaching position at Penn State. Mason had served as associate head coach and the Willie Shaw Director of Defense for the football team at Stanford University.

After the change was made to the mural by artist Michael Cooper, several objections were made about Mason’s image. Akailah Jenkins, president of the Vanderbilt University chapter of the NAACP, stated in The Tennessean, “We realized it was reminiscent of the minstrelsy era in which Black people’s skin was darkened and their lips were made whiter in order to exaggerate their race in order to put them in a sharp contrast with the White race.” A petition was started on campus calling for changes to the mural depiction of Mason.

Cooper argued that he used a photograph of Coach Mason provided to him by the university and that the painted image was an accurate rendering of the image in the photograph. However, he has agreed to redo the mural.


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