Amherst College has announced that it will suspend the entire lacrosse team through the 2021 season after three players were accused of using bigoted language during an incident. The suspension continues a trend of universities and college suspending entire sports teams over the actions of a small group of players.
According to a report by the College Fix, Amherst College has suspended its men’s lacrosse team through 2021 over an alleged incident that involved three players. At least one member of the lacrosse team was accused of using a racial slur during a “harassing” incident that occurred in March.
In a letter to the community, Amherst College President Biddy Martin said that the team has a history of “troubling” behavior. During one of the alleged incidents, one player drew a swastika on a teammate’s face. The team has also been accused of using language that ridiculed the transgender community.
The incident that occurred nearly two weeks ago involved the use by some members of the lacrosse team of racist, harassing speech—in the form of the “n-word.” The use of this slur carries the historical weight of centuries-long violence and hatred toward black Americans. It is, unfortunately, only the most recent in a list of deeply troubling cases involving some team members over the years. Those cases include sharing photos of a teammate with a swastika drawn on his face who had passed out at a party, and GroupMe exchanges denigrating and ridiculing gender-nonconforming and trans staff.
The university claims that they were forced to punish the entire team because they were not able to identify the students that used the racial slurs during the alleged incident. Martin chastised the team for refusing to identify the players that allegedly participated in the conflict.
What makes these matters worse is the failure of those involved to own up to their behavior and the failure of teammates to identify who was at fault. These failures have exacerbated the harm to those directly affected and to our broader community, including those alumni who experienced racism and other indignities while at Amherst. A team culture that repeatedly violates standards of human decency and then protects those who have perpetuated these violations is not a culture acceptable at Amherst. Unfortunately, even these two incidents are not isolated. The team over recent years has been responsible for other violations, including vandalism in the dorms, overtaxing our custodial and facilities staff, and at times creating unsafe conditions.
This is not the first time that a university has punished an entire team over the actions of a few players. Breitbart News reported in 2016 that Harvard University had suspended the men’s soccer team for the remainder of the season because some players had created a list that ranked players on the women’s soccer team on the basis of their appearance.