University of Wisconsin basketball star Nigel Hayes, along with about 20 African American football players and other student athletes, took to Twitter Monday to say the racial tensions on campus affect them as much as any other students, and to demand administration take their concerns seriously.
In a statement shared on Twitter around 7 pm Monday, the athletes said the “are loved during competition, but then subjected to racial discrimination in our everyday lives too.”
“It is painful that someone in our community would show up to an athletic event with a mask of our sitting president, who happens to look a lot like us, with a noose around his neck,” the statement read. “That moment was like a punch in the face to not only student-athletes of color, but also current students, faculty and alumni of color. This incident was yet another blow and reminder that there are people in this community that may not value diverse populations.”
As a student, I demand change from @UWMadison. pic.twitter.com/NZEaqBeevP
— Nigel Hayes (@NIGEL_HAYES) November 8, 2016
The statement comes after a fan wore a mask depicting President Obama with a noose around his neck. UW, UW Athletics and UW Police came under heavy criticism when they did not remove the fans from the game, but just asked them to remove the noose, citing their right to free speech.
Since then, Athletic Director Barry Alvarez has apologized and vowed to have a new policy for handling such incidents in place this week. Chancellor Rebecca Blank also issued an apology and told the faculty senate today that the two fans have had their season tickets revoked.
It may not be enough for the athletes.
“In solidarity with other students on this campus, we implore Chancellor Blank and her cabinet to take action, be visible, leave your ivory tower and speak to the students,” their statement read. “Please create real programs, initiate meaningful change and understand that students of color deserve to thrive in this institution just like our peers. We want to be a part of the amazing legacy this university has held for years and years.”