WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A Western Carolina University football player has called on his teammates to boycott team activities after several racist videos involving students at the school circulated on social media.
Sophomore safety Jaylon McMillon said he and other members of the Catamounts football team agreed during a Zoom video Sunday not to take part in workouts – practices started back in mid-July – and other activities in preparation for what will be just a two-game fall non-conference season in November, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
The players have the backing of head coach Mark Speir, who called the videos reprehensible.
On Tuesday evening, the school announced that the five students who appeared in the videos have been expelled. The school said a sixth person involved was not a Western Carolina student. Officials had no further comment.
McMillon said the boycott would remain in effect until officials at Western Carolina conclude their review of the videos. Two of the videos were shared to social media over the weekend depicting several students, who appeared to be white, using a racial slur.
The school issued a statement condemning the videos and said it is addressing the issue, but McMillon questioned the length of time it’s taking to review the incident.
“Our chancellor came out and she said that, `It’s going to take time.’ They’re going to have to re-evaluate the videos – they have to keep watching them over and over again to see if it was really bad,” McMillon said. “So we took that and we were like, `Why do you have to keep watching the video multiple times to really understand what’s going on?”‘
According to the newspaper, a compilation of Snapchat videos lasting approximately 24 seconds included what appear to be three women and a man using a racial slur for African Americans. A second mashup of videos Sunday lasting more than 90 seconds showed two white men, who contended that their “OK” hand gesture wasn’t a symbol indicating white power. One of the men proceeded to refer to Black women by using the slur.
In the video statement posted Sunday, Chancellor Kelli R. Brown identified those in the videos as students. She said she had spoken to a number of student leaders who expressed to her “their fear, anxiety and pain.”
“Justifiable calls for action can be heard from across our campus community today. Rest assured, the University is taking active steps to address these particular incidents consistent with our University processes and policies,” Brown said in the first of two statements sent in an email. “However, we cannot disclose specific actions taken against a specific student(s). With that in mind, our inability to communicate specific actions should not be construed as inaction. Western Carolina University takes seriously the effect that these videos have had on the campus community and will act accordingly.”
“University officials are taking active steps, even now. We must rise above the negativity and the prejudice,” Brown said.
McMillon said the team held another Zoom meeting Monday to plan a march involving students and athletes across campus to raise awareness.
“Just for a bigger picture, what’s going on in today’s world, it’s way bigger than football at this time,” McMillon said.
Western Carolina, with an enrollment of more than 12,000 students, is located in the town of Cullowhee, about 55 miles (85 kilometers) southwest of Asheville. The school’s website says more than 20% of its students identify as a racial minority.