Posted: 10:03 pm Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Member of Tray Matthews’ family responds to criticisms 

By Chip Towers

LaToya Cox-Thomas with her nephew Tray Matthews at a Georgia event this past year. (Facebook photo)

LaToya Cox-Thomas with her nephew Tray Matthews at a Georgia event this past year. (Facebook photo)

People who regularly read the comments section of the AJC’s blogs may have already seen the remarks of LaToya Cox-Thomas underneath a recent UGA sports blog. But for the vast majority of folks who don’t read those — especially three days after the initial blog has been posted — I am reprinting her thoughts here with permission.

To explain, Ms. Cox-Thomas is Tray Matthews’ aunt, the sister of Matthews’ mother, Sonya Matthews. She was writing in response to the comments made to me this past weekend by Kevin Bailey, the father of Georgia junior defensive lineman Sterling Bailey. Mr. Bailey had called me Saturday “needing to vent” about the recent rash of disciplinary dismissals and transfers the Bulldogs had encountered and what he perceived as a lack of appreciation for the way the ousted players were treated while at UGA. You can read that blog HERE.

Ms. Cox-Thomas wanted to speak for the Matthews family both in response to Mr. Bailey and in general. Obviously, she took an exception to the comments made by Mr. Bailey and has been especially offended by some of the responses she has seen from people who describe themselves as Georgia fans.

“(The Matthews, Sonya and Carlos) don’t post on the Internet and they don’t read most things on the Internet and they don’t respond to things, so I felt like I should,” Cox-Thomas told me when I called to confirm her identity and relationship. “The most hurtful part is Tray reads everything that people are saying and it hurts him a lot.”

For a little background, Cox-Thomas is from Greenville, Ga., and lived in Newnan, where the Matthews family still resides, before moving to Auburn, Ala. She says she has always been and will continue to be a Georgia fan, but added that she intends to support her nephew now that he is going to play for the Auburn Tigers.

“People take these rivalries seriously and it’s not that,” Cox-Thomas told me. “It’s because (Tray) has an opportunity and he’s taking advantage of it. I want people to know who I am, that Tray does have real family and we do read these posts and we are very affected by it.”

Here now is Cox-Thomas’ response:

I Love Tray. His mom and dad are my family and I am tired of people like Mr. Bailey who use my nephew and the mistakes of other athletes as a way to make themselves relevant! I thought since there is such great interest in Tray and his family, I should at least share some facts!

Within the article titled: UGA football parent: “It’s not the system, it’s the kids” I read that “the latest news coupled with some comments by Matthews and family members and Auburn Fans on social media left him upset and bitter”. Let’s be real – Fans will be fans, the Matthews family can not be held accountable for the things fans say – good or bad –any more than you or I for what Mr. Bailey and other fair weather fans have said now that Tray has been dismissed from the team. But surely if it angered him to the point of contacting a reporter to vent then he could have included at least one direct quote made by the Matthews family that angered him right?

So let’s address Mr. Bailey’s anger – He stated that he speaks as a member of the Georgia Bulldog family, of the Bulldog Nation… Tray was once a Bulldog too! His parents were the parents of a Bulldog too!! Mr. Bailey himself has to admit that he has proudly cheered and supported #28 as a Bulldog but now that the error of Tray Matthews’ ways has led to his dismissal, Mr. Bailey has obviously traded his cheers, support and claimed friendship in simply because he “just needs to vent”! Please know that even before Tray arrived on campus in Athens his heart was with playing for the Georgia Bulldogs (evident in his steadfast commit to Georgia OVER numerous other schools during his recruitment while in high school and his will to play through his hamstring injury as a Bulldog).

Kudos for Mr. Bailey displaying HIS parenting skills and how HE handled HIS SON. But I’m disgusted that he can receive validation at the expense of mentioning the OTHER ATHLETES and THEIR VIOLATIONS without knowing anything about how THEIR PARENTS dealt with and are dealing with THEIR SONS. And again where are the comments that brought his need to vent in the first place?

I’m confused as to why “fans” have co-signed with Mr. Bailey when the creditability of his statements are suspect! The Matthews family has never blamed the system, never said the University did anything wrong, and never spoke against the Bulldog Nation. So why is what Mr. Bailey has said so worthy of applaud?

Mr. Bailey said “Not one time have I heard these kids say how they appreciate the University of Georgia and their coaches. When they leave the University of Georgia, they go to their arch rival or somewhere else and tear down the University system, Like Georgia did something bad to them…” I guess the Matthews family owes Mr. Bailey an apology, how dare they not include him in the very private and humbled conversation that they had with the coaches – THANKING them for the immeasurable investment of time, effort, support and the opportunity they afforded to Tray – while still trying to wrap their minds around not knowing what was next for their son. The nerve of them for dealing with the actions of their son privately (as I have always known them to do), and not participate in reckless internet posting against their son.

How can Mr. Bailey so easily judge other parents when he by his own confession has obviously dealt with having to support his son after he too made a mistake? Does Mr. Bailey “love” Tray enough not to speak against him simply because he chose Auburn? Did it hurt Mr. Bailey to read blogs where fans who once cheered for #28 now seemingly hate him with equal poise? Did Mr. Bailey share in the hurt of our family to read posts of good riddance or mockery of Tray’s injury which affected his ability to be on the field regardless of his heart’s desire? I mean it had to sicken Mr. Bailey to read posts that called Tray a ghetto, project thug, with no more than a middle school education, passed through the system because of his talents – when obviously as a “good friend” Mr. Bailey knows that Tray is a kid with aspirations of being a veterinarian, who comes from a family where higher education is expected, and Tray actually strived to ensure he had all his credits ahead of time in order to graduate early so that he could get to GEORGIA!!

Was Mr. Bailey heartbroken by the comments made about his “good friends” the Matthews being parents who are just looking for an NFL check rather than teaching their son responsibility? These and countless other hurtful remarks have been made but I haven’t seen a blog of support from good ole Mr. Bailey! FACT: Mr. Matthews is a veteran of the United States Navy, Mrs. Matthews is an educator in Coweta County, Tray’s brother is a graduate of Morehouse College (Cum Laude), and his sister is entering her senior year of high school with college credits already under her belt – so why would they expect anything less of Tray?

Our family has not defended what Tray did nor have his parents upheld him in his wrong. We have simply offered the support that we should once the damage was done. Tray’s actions caused a reality check for him –being dismissed and seeing his dreams deferred – but like it or not the same talent that he possessed as a Bulldog has provided him with a rare opportunity to be able to pick up the pieces and return to school to further his education and to play the game he has loved since he was a young boy. He will not take this opportunity for granted nor will he down play it to make it easier for people such as Mr. Bailey to come to grips with. I personally think Mr. Bailey would be satisfied if Tray or the other athlete he mentioned would return home never to play again – BUT WHAT IF IT WERE HIS SON? FACT: I respect the young man and his parents enough not to mention his name to make my point!!

A parent can raise a child up but we all possess free Will to make choices that sometimes lead to drastic ends. You still must find a way to move forward, that is all that the Matthews family has done. And with that being said – (wait for it) WAR DAMN EAGLE! My Family…My Opinion!

– LaToya Cox-Thomas