By Victoria Mims
The William Peace University Women’s Basketball team chose not to participate in the Divisional Championship Game against North Carolina Wesleyan March 6 in support of a suspended teammate who was suspended after responding to racial slurs.
“Unfortunately we will not in good conscience participate in today’s Championship game,” the WPU Women’s Basketball team tweeted on Saturday, March 6.
A statement attached to the tweet explained that one of their players was the victim of a racial slur and other derogatory names during a game and in several later instances. The player’s response to these comments “led to the unethical suspension of the same player.”
“The systemic racism that our team has first hand experienced in the past several weeks is an issue that needs to be addressed not only within William Peace University but in the USA South conference as a whole.”
While the statement did not name the player, team member and junior Lauryn Cross said in a tweet that “William Peace University Athletic Department has suspended me for the second time for defending myself from racial slurs, phallic gestures and being constantly antagonized. WITH NOTHING BEING DONE TO THE OTHER ATHLETE. WPU athletics & USA South Conference accept & acknowledge it.”
The coach of WPU Women’s Basketball team, Marquetta Dickens showed her support for her team by tweeting on Saturday, that “…This is not ideal, but I stand in solidarity with their decision and proud they feel empowered to use their voice.”
On Saturday evening, WPU President Dr. Brian Ralph sent out an email to the whole student body addressing the situation. According to the email, President Ralph contacted the coach and plans to meet with the team to learn more.
“Today, the Women’s Basketball team chose to forfeit the Divisional Championship Game in solidarity and support of a teammate who had been suspended from competition due to her response to racist and unsportsmanlike taunts by an opponent,” stated President Ralph in the email. “The University supports the students’ right to make that decision.”
Ralph explained in his email that he disapproves of racism and no one should have to experience it. Through his email he explained that the incidents were reported and that he requested the Conference to create a task force to address racism.
In the email President Ralph also explains that everything possible will be done to create an environment that embraces diversity, pursues inclusivity, promotes respect, and fights racism.
On Monday, WPU’s Student Government Association also posted on Instagram about this issue to let the basketball team know they stand in full support. SGA will also be working and meeting with the team.
“Enough is enough,” WPU SGA wrote in the caption of the post. “This treatment will not be tolerated. We will be working with the player and their team this week to work on how to build a better community. It will be our number one priority for this semester and every year after.”
Another email was sent out by President Ralph on Wednesday March 10 following up on his message from Saturday. In the email he explains that he has met with the women’s basketball team and gathered ideas from them as well as suggestions.
President Ralph explained that the university plans to identify and hire an external interviewer to evaluate their response and lend a critical eye on existing procedures. WPU’s goal is to secure the partner within the semester.
“I am also proud that we have such engaged and thoughtful students at WPU who provided me with some very transparent thoughts about how we failed to fully support a member of our community during a time of distress.”
Also on Wednesday, WPU’s Black Student Union Executive Committee released a statement about their disappointment with the university, but while also expressing their support for the WPU Women’s Basketball team.
“William Peace University cannot be a place where marginalized communities feel unprotected and unheard. One of the pillars of the institution is Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect and we believe that the institution is failing to protect its diverse, inclusive, and respectful community.”
Within the statement, BSU also provided suggestions to the university in order to move forward to improve the experience of Black students.