Florida State University (FSU) has decided to sever ties with Childers Construction Company because co-owner and vice-president Sam Childers appeared in blackface during a 2015 engagement party that fell on Halloween.
FSU had been the contractor’s largest client — generating millions of dollars in revenue — The Tallahassee Democrat reported on June 29.
The contractor’s problems began after Sarah Howard reported the images, which had surfaced on social media about a year ago, to university administrators in June. She told the newspaper that the photos were posted by a Childers family member, whom she knew from their days at Leon High School in the mid-2000s.
“My primary goal was to implore Florida State to consider condemning this behavior, which was in violation of their equal opportunity and nondiscrimination statements, and to consider cutting future ties with Childers Construction,” she was quoted as saying. “It showed a lack of respect and a general callousness for his employees and employers.”
FSU President John Thrasher responded with a decision to sever the university’s continuing service agreement with Childers in a June 11 letter obtained by the Democrat through a public records request.
“Florida State University has high standards and expectations on matters related to civility and respect,” Thrasher wrote to Childers. “As president, I expect respectful conduct from both our campus family and from partners who do business with the university.”
Childers had apologized profusely in a letter sent to Thrasher and the Board of Trustees on June 2, the same day Howard’s email landed at FSU, the newspaper reported. He also denied any racist intent.
Childers said he dressed up as Bob Marley, one of his musical heroes, more than five years ago at an engagement party held on Halloween.
“In no way did I intend to defame anyone of color,” Childers wrote. “From the bottom of my heart, I can attest that this was not the product of ill intentions or prejudicial feelings.”
However, Thrasher told Childers that the university determined his “objectionable behavior” violated FSU’s core values and contractual requirements.
“To that end, Florida State will cancel this continuing service agreement,” Thrasher wrote. “Other existing company contracts that had previously been entered into before June 1 will be honored.”
The Democrat reports that Childers Construction currently is working on the Hoffman Teaching Laboratory renovations project and renovations to the third floor of Biology Unit 1 on campus.
“Recently, someone has tried to use it against me by making it look like I was intentionally trying to offend and hurt others — and by sending the photo to people in our community,” Childers wrote. “As a human, a father and a business owner, I do not support or tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind.”
He said he now knows his behavior could “hurt or offend” others and pledged not to do it again.
“Like others, my awareness has since been raised about how acts like this are viewed by many people of color, and others, taking into consideration and looking back to a practice that was offensive and dehumanizing,” Childers wrote.
The company was the construction manager for the new Champions Club and elevator towers at Doak Campbell Stadium and completed renovations, painting and enhancements to the stadium, a project worth $97 million, the newspaper reported.
Among the company’s FSU projects are the FSU PrimaryHealth Center in southwest Tallahassee, the $8 million renovation of The Don Veller Seminole Golf Course and Club, the $17 million Tucker Center renovations and the indoor practice facility on campus.