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US Lacrosse, Emmanuel College, University of the South on racial slurs used by Sewanee students

US Lacrosse, Emmanuel College, University of the South on racial slurs used by Sewanee students

This past weekend some of the 120 Sewanee student spectators attending a lacrosse match hurled racial epithets, including the n-word, against members of the opposing team from Emmanuel College.

Statements have been issued by US Lacrosse, Emmanuel College, and Sewanee.

Statement from US Lacrosse

US Lacrosse condemns the behavior and vulgar comments directed towards the members of the Emmanuel College men’s lacrosse team by spectators during its game at the University of the South (Sewanee) last weekend. Playing a sport you love should not result in having to endure harassment. We stand in support of the players from Emmanuel College, and are committed to doing our part to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and embraced in our sport. 

Earlier this month, US Lacrosse showed its support for the WE STAND initiative, working with Nation United Foundation (NUF), Black Lacrosse Alliance and other stakeholders in the lacrosse community in an effort aimed at promoting anti-harassment and anti-racism in sports. Last year, US Lacrosse adopted an anti-harassment policy to provide guidance for leagues and events to address issues. The organization has also developed educational resources, including an online cultural competency course launched in 2019 and has recently partnered with RISE to provide a series of workshops to empower sports administrators, coaches, and athletes to be leaders in discussing and addressing matters of racism, prejudice, diversity and inclusivity. 

Statement from Bert Severns, Emmanuel College Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach: 

The video of Saturday’s game speaks for itself. When I and our players became aware of the racial epithets being made by the home team’s spectators, I immediately walked out on the field and told the officials that the game needed to be stopped to address the racial epithets being used by the spectators. The officials brought the players off the field, spoke to the Sewanee coaches and informed them of the situation. The Sewanee administration took the appropriate step of removing all of the spectators from the stadium. Once that was done, we were able to resume play and finish the game. 

After the game, the Vice Chancellor and President of the University of the South, Reuben E. Brigety, II, spoke to our team. President Brigety made it clear to my team that Sewanee does not tolerate such behavior and that he considered the assault on their dignity completely unacceptable. I believe him.

Emmanuel College Men’s Lacrosse Program is one of the most, if not the most diverse men’s lacrosse programs in the country. We are proud of that and we believe that makes us better. I have had many conversations with our players to make sure that what they experienced is wrong and absolutely unacceptable. I will continue to have these conversations with them, Emmanuel College is supporting them, and the entire lacrosse community has reached out to let them know that they have their backs.  Our players are resilient, but they are human and that experience takes its toll.

What happened at Sewanee on Saturday should never happen in any place or sporting event.  I hope I never see anything like that again, and I believe President Bridgety will ensure that it is not repeated at Sewanee.

Statement from Reubert Brigety, Vice-Chancellor at The University of the South in Sewanee:

It is with regret that I must share with you the details of an inexcusable incident that occurred yesterday, the steps we are taking to help prevent this from happening again, and the request we are making for your assistance in identifying those responsible.

Yesterday, Saturday, March 13, we were pleased to host the men’s lacrosse team of Emmanuel College for a match. Because of pandemic protocols, the only people allowed to attend were student-athletes, coaches, game management staff, and students. Approximately 120 Sewanee students attended. To our great dismay, a few of the Sewanee students hurled the most vile racial epithets (to include the “N-word” and other appalling epithets directed at people of color) toward members of the visiting Emmanuel team, whose roster includes white, African American, Asian American, Native American, and Latino men. So pronounced were the shouted slurs in the third quarter that the game officials on the field ordered that Sewanee fans be cleared before play could continue.

Though I was not present at the match, shortly after its conclusion, Athletic Director Mark Webb informed me of what had transpired. Upon hearing the disturbing news, I went to the lacrosse field to meet with the visiting team. As Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of the entire Sewanee community, I personally apologized to our guests for the conduct of these students. I told them that Sewanee does not tolerate such behavior, and that we considered the assaults on their dignity completely unacceptable. Likewise, our athletic director and coaches apologized to their colleagues from Emmanuel, and AD Webb has informed the conference of this incident. We are also taking the following actions:

  • AD Webb has initiated a comprehensive review of what happened to identify steps Sewanee Athletics can take in its game protocols to help prevent such incidents in the future. This will include changes in the positioning of Sewanee staff and security so they can stay attuned to fan behavior more fully than they were yesterday and are empowered to act to stop such behavior should that be necessary.
  • AD Webb will be meeting with student and student-athlete groups, including the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, to reassert the values of the University and convey the University’s unequivocal commitment to treating everyone, including athletics competitors, respectfully.

We are also determined to identify those who were responsible for yesterday’s hate speech so that appropriate measures can be taken, as I assured the Emmanuel players and coaches when I spoke with them. Our initial efforts to find those who shouted these slurs at our guests proved unsuccessful. And so toward this end I need your help.

Allow me first to say, to the few students who are responsible for the epithets shouted yesterday, as I know of no other way to reach you: You have until noon tomorrow, Monday, March 15, to inform the Dean of Students Office that you are responsible. You can do so via email, by calling 931.598.1229, or in person at the Bishops Common. We hope you will do so.

The actions demonstrated by some of our students during yesterday’s match are a blatant violation of our collective commitment to EQB. They were even more egregious because they were directed at guests whom we had invited into our community to compete against our student-athletes. Though these horrible racial insults were shouted by only a few of our students, how we respond is a reflection on our collective integrity and honor. I therefore must ask anyone in the Sewanee community who may know the identities of the individuals who shouted these racist epithets yesterday to get in touch with the University via this confidential reporting form. You may also send any relevant information anonymously through the LiveSafe app.

Students who are in need of support in coping with this unsettling incident on our campus may contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 931.598.1325, our Dean of Students Office, or Interim Director of Multicultural Affairs Rachel Fredericks. We are committed to providing you the assistance that you may need.


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Eric Bonetti

The problem that will arise here will be one of accountability. It’s much like the situation after the Heather Cook debacle: The national church issued a report decrying the fact that issues of impairment of come up repeatedly over the years, only to be met with lip service and no accountability. Sure enough, dioceses nationwide promised that updates to their alcohol policies would be forthcoming. And indeed they were—it’s just that here in DioVA, for example, it took several years.

Needless to say, that sort of response leads observers, myself included, to conclude that discussions of accountability go in one ear and out the other in TEC.

L W Robinson

Sewanee is an Episcopal school. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is African American, as I believe the school’s Vice Chancellor to be. Racist behavior is completely unChristian as well as unEpiscopalian, and students guilty of such behavior should not be allowed to remain in the school.

M. K. Tate

Totally agree. What disturbs me most is the Vice-Chancellor’s focus on what they can do to prevent this in the future. First, the focus must be on accountability and responsibility. What will the consequences be for such egregious behavior?Took many “nice young men” get away with this boys being boys ridiculousness, especially college athletes. Sewanee leadership must take a stand. I hope Alumni and Provincial Leadership also step up to condemn this behavior.

The following his the Sewanne Honor Code

“At Sewanee, we share a commitment to honor. Each of us is proud to pledge not to lie, cheat, or steal. This spirit defines our character, influences our decisions, and covers everything from coursework to conduct. Every member of the incoming class commits to this pledge by signing our Honor Code. It’s part of what sets us apart from other schools, and sets Sewanee graduates apart from their peers.”

It seems clear there are expectations of respectful and honorable conduct at Sewanee. I am hopeful this will be a teachable moment. So sorry that Emmanuel had to experience this anywhere, much less at an Episcopal College.

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