“In light of the impact that these actions have had on Whitworth and the greater Spokane community, we feel it is in the best interest of all involved to take this action at this time,” Coach Jael Hagerott said Wednesday in a statement. “While their intentions were not malicious, the outcome of their actions was painful for many in our community. We feel that this punitive response is proportional to their actions.”
The women were not allowed to play Wednesday in the season-opening game against Carleton College. However, the university’s athletics department said it does not plan to take any further punitive action.
“As a Christ-centered university that believes in the value of all individuals, we are seeking to use this situation as an opportunity to educate, redeem and restore,” athletics director Tim Demant said.
Officials told local media members the student athletes did not comprehend the meaning behind blackface.
“They have shared with me, personally, that they were not aware of the history of blackface,” Lawrence Burnley, the university’s associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion, told KXLY-TV. “Now, for some that’s hard to believe. How can you not be aware of this history? And if, in fact, you are not — and I believe some people quite frankly are not — what does that say about [our] educational system? I’m not talking about Whitworth. I’m talking about education in the United States.”
Whitworth University is a small, private Christian school nestled in Spokane with about 3,000 students and a mission to “honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity,” according to its Web site.
The players’ team captains apologized Wednesday, calling the incident “insensitive and hurtful.”
“While at no time did we intend to offend or harm anyone, it is clear to us now that these actions were very inappropriate and disrespectful to many people,” the players said Wednesday in a statement. “On behalf of our entire team, we sincerely apologize for our actions and the harm they created. While we would love to go back and undo those decisions, unfortunately that is not possible. We are committed to learning from our mistakes and hope that in the future we can be positive roles models for others.”