Phillip White, a San Jose police officer who got in trouble for sending antagonistic anti-Black Lives Matter tweets in 2014, has been back at De Anza College to help with the basketball team since that time, and was about to be approved to return for the 2020-2021 season.
But Dean of Physical Education and Athletics, Eric Mendoza rescinded former assistant coach Phillip White’s application to volunteer in a letter sent to La Voz on July 15.
According to Mercury News, White tweeted in May 2014 in reference to the rise in the Black Lives Matter movement, “By the way, if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter, I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”
White was fired from the San Jose police department in 2015, after making the inflammatory comments but was subsequently reinstated as a police officer by an independent arbitrator decision.
Jason Damjanovic, head coach of the men’s basketball team, said in an interview on July 14 that he did not personally take issue with the reinstatement of White, but understood there could be concerns.
White worked as one of 59 volunteers in the athletic department for the winter 2020 season, where, according to Damjanovic, the majority of men’s basketball players are Black.
“In recent discussions with our men’s basketball coach, athletics director and senior administration, it was decided to not bring back Mr. White as part of our program in any role,” said Mendoza.
White refused to comment when reached by La Voz news.
Menlo College, where he worked as an assistant basketball coach, had terminated him shortly after the comments were made public in December of 2014.
“It was insensitive. It just wasn’t good… It wasn’t the beliefs of any of us at De Anza College,” said Damjanovic.
White was first hired by Damjanovic to be an assistant basketball coach to the men’s basketball team in 2012 and again as a volunteer in 2017 on a seasonal contract basis.
“It was not an on the bench coaching role,” Damjanovic said of the 2017 position. “It was more of a behind the scenes game day type of assistance. We have very little game day preparation.”
Damjanovic met White when he was working as an assistant basketball coach at Notre Dame University, while White was working as varsity boy’s basketball head coach at Overfelt High School. Damjanovic had previously worked at Overfelt High School as the head basketball coach.
Mendoza said that White’s statements do not reflect the opinions of the De Anza athletic department.
“It is important that De Anza College Athletics continues to lead with our unwavering commitment to stand in solidarity with our African American community,” said Mendoza.