Officials at Southern Mississipi have apologized for an incident in which members of the school’s pep band taunted a Kansas State player with a racist chant during the teams’ NCAA tournament game Thursday afternoon.
Members of the band chanted “Where’s your green card?” as Kansas State’s Angel Rodriguez, an American player born in Puerto Rico, stepped to the free-throw line during the East Region game in Pittsburgh. (Buzzfeed video after the jump)
“We deeply regret the remarks made by a few students at today’s game,” Southern Mississippi President Martha Saunders said in a statement issued by the school Thursday. “The words of these individuals do not represent the sentiments of our pep band, athletic department or university. We apologize to Mr. Rodriguez and will take quick and appropriate disciplinary action against the students involved in this isolated incident.”
The statement originally misspelled Rodriguez’s name. Jeff Hammond, interim athletic director at Southern Mississippi, said he and the band’s director would apologize to Rodriguez and K-State Coach Frank Martin. “I want to reach out to Conference USA and anyone else who is impacted by this and take full responsibility for this,” Hammond told the Clarion-Ledger. “This does not represent the state or university. This is not acceptable.”
Rodriguez, a freshman, said Friday he had heard the chant and accepted the apology. “There's ignorant people and I know that's not how they want to represent their university,” he said. He called the chant “nonsense, especially because Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, so we don't need no type of papers.”
Kansas State sent Southern Mississippi back to Hattiesburg with a 70-64 victory in the East Region game in Pittsburgh, but the incident continues to resonate.
“The first thing I thought about [when told of the incident] was, it’s 2012,” soccer star Mia Hamm said in a Fox News Latino interview. “I hope we’re at a point in this country where we are not cheering those things. And also my husband [Nomar Garciaparra] is Latino, my daughters are half-Latino, and that’s something that for me I want them to be proud of their heritage. And I want them to be proud to be an American.
“I think as a country we’re better than that.”
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