Howard University’s Women’s lacrosse team were set to take on Presbyterian College at an away game on Feb. 11. Upon entering the stadium, the Howard athletes and their coach, eager to play another game, were met with the scorn of vile racist remarks.
In order to get to the locker room, Karen Healy-Silcott, the new head coach of Howard University’s women’s lacrosse team, had to lead the athletes past the makeshift tailgate.
“We were heading down the steps to the field in the stadium, there were pickup trucks full of white boys, sitting at the top of the hill beside the stadium, saying “F*** Howard, you’re not welcome here, we don’t want you here, go home,” Healy-Silcott said in an interview with NBC news. “They were shouting out my kids by name, they were saying ‘F*** you, s*** my d***, you p****-a** bitch,” Healy-Silcott added.
Coaches and players alike were appalled by the opposing student’s actions. Following this incident, Healy-Silcott immediately notified Howard University, which soon brought the incident into the national spotlight and trending on various social media platforms.
In response to the infamous incident that took place on campus, Presbyterian College’s president, Matt vandenBerg, issued an address to his students, faculty and staff on Feb. 15.
“We also must remember that the actions of a few reflect on the campus as a whole. The fact that some of our students felt sufficiently comfortable, privileged and empowered to undertake such deplorable and hateful actions is a clear sign of the significant work we must all do to continue building a more equitable and inclusive campus for all community members and visitors,” vandenBerg said.
In response to the school’s incident, an independent counsel is currently investigating the matter. Aside from having this policy, the university also established guidelines. These guidelines require that students and spectators attending athletic events sit in designated areas and that certain surrounding areas are off-limits.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) released a press release about the incident, which outlined the embedded racism occurring at the school and steps the Presbyterian College must take to improve the safety of POC students, faculty and visitors alike.
“Black colleges are under attack from our white brothers and sisters, and we are not going to tolerate that any longer,” Reverend J.M Flemming, president of the Greenville NAACP branch, said in the press release.
President and CEO of USA Lacrosse Marc Riccio also came forth with a statement on Sunday via Twitter regarding the incident.
“At a time when we’re recognizing the amazing contributions of the Black community, it’s saddening to think there is still much work to be done,” Riccio said. “We want to offer our full support to the players, coaches and staff of Howard University. USA Lacrosse remains committed to fostering a national lacrosse community that encourages understanding, appreciation and acceptance of all.”
In the history of lacrosse, the origin of the sport lies in Native American traditions. A primary goal of the game was to encourage friendly competition and camaraderie between the players to benefit as a collective.
“It was given to us as a medicine game, a ceremonial game to heal the sick, make peace among nations and to have fun,” Iroquois professional lacrosse player Jeremy Thompson said.
Though the tailgators didn’t exhibit lacrosse’s core themes of sportsmanship, passion, inclusivity and unity, the camaraderie among the young women, coaches and community echoes those values.
“It sends a really powerful message to my players that they are seen and heard and nobody should have to experience what we experience,” Healy-Silcott said to NBC News. “It’s important to remember that we have to keep talking about these things. That is one commitment I’ve gotten from people. Their response was [that] they didn’t think this was still happening. So we have to make sure that the conversation never stops.”
The Howard University Women’s Lacrosse players did not want to comment on the incident.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith