A nationally ranked men’s lacrosse program at Amherst College is facing repercussions after reported instances of racism and bigotry.
According to The Daily Hampshire Gazette, the men’s lacrosse team was placed on probation for the 2021 spring season and the head coach Jon Thompson was fired after the men’s team chanted the N-word at a Black lacrosse player. The incident was first reported by the Amherst Student on March 11. According to the report, the Black student punched one of his teammates who was using the racial slur.
Along with probation, formal team gatherings are banned until November 1, which includes player-run practices or other team-bonding activities. Every team member will be required to complete an educational course selected by Epstein with input from the athletic director Don Faulstick and the chief diversity and inclusion officer.
Thompson was let go after ten seasons in charge of the Mammoths. He helped lead them to their first national championship game last season, and the team came in at No. 7 in the country this year before the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A letter was released to the Amherst College community saying the N-word incident was the latest in a pattern of concerning behavior surrounding the lacrosse program.
“Participation in athletics at Amherst is a privilege, not a right,” the letter read. “Amherst athletes are required to follow the behavioral standards set by the athletic department and the College honor code as well. We realize that not every student on the men’s lacrosse team has actively participated in the violations that have come to light. However, as with any group or organization on our campus, teammates are accountable to each other and, as a team, also to the larger community. In short, we cannot ignore the harmful culture that exists on the men’s lacrosse team, and its damage to our community.”
Along with the N-word chanting, the letter also described an incident where team members exchanged messages in the texting app, GroupMe, that were “denigrating and ridiculing” transgender and gender-nonconforming staff members. The letter continued that members of the program were behind past vandalism in dorms, which put an extra burden on campus custodial services.
The team was also uncooperative in the investigation and nobody took ownership for chanting the N-word, according to the letter.
“Amherst athletics is among the oldest and most prestigious athletic programs in the country,” the letter read. “Our athletes can and must reflect the best of Amherst, holding themselves to the high standards we expect of our community in all its endeavors. We stand ready to help guide and support the work of transforming the men’s lacrosse program and to continue the work of ensuring that all our students have full access to the intellectual, social, and co-curricular opportunities Amherst offers.”