The Yale men’s basketball team, facing controversy over various public displays of support for expelled team captain Jack Montague, has signaled a continuation of that support following their win against Columbia on Saturday.
In the moments following Yale’s win, which clinched the team’s N.C.A.A. bid, the Yale Daily News reports that members of the team raised four fingers to signal Montague’s jersey number. Guard Khaliq Ghani also reportedly had Montague’s nickname, “Gucci,” written on his wrist tape during the game. Members of the team have expressed their seemingly unwavering loyalty in response to the departure of their captain, whose expulsion—recently confirmed by his father—has not been and likely will not be explained by the university (Yale has cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).
Ghani told Sports Illustrated: “We’re not trying to offend anyone, it’s just coming from the heart. Jack is still the captain of our team.”
“He’s our leader, he’s our captain,” Senior Justin Sears told Newsweek. “We are always talking, always texting. He’s not here, but he is always with us.” Sears told Sports Illustrated that “tonight was not perfect for us. We miss Jack.”
Newsweek reports that Montague FaceTimed with the team prior to Saturday’s game. During that conversation, SI reports, Montague indicated that he would attend upcoming games. While teammates declined to comment, head coach James Jones waved off rumors that Montague was expelled for sexual assault, which caught the attention of the media when posters appeared around campus last week asking the men’s basketball team to “stop supporting a rapist.”
“That isn’t of any interest to me,” Jones told SI. “The only interesting thing to me right now is winning a basketball game.” The YDN reports that Jones said in an interview: “Jack knows how we feel about him—we love him. He’s a great young man and we love him.”
In an op-ed titled “Misplaced Solidarity,” published on Friday in The Yale Herald, student Lucy Carmelo outlined the critiques she and others at Yale have with the basketball team’s vocal (and visual) support for Montague, including their decision to wear shirts bearing Montague’s nickname, “Gucci”:
The shirts did, in fact, “make it as clear as possible that Jack is one of [their] brothers,” as senior forward Justin Sears told the YDN. It’s just that their expression of brotherhood is incompatible with a campus climate in which everyone can feel safe. The basketball team, or any varsity team for that matter, stands in a particularly privileged position; inherently, some voices will be heard louder than others. There is a power in the scope of their public reach that can also be a burden.
Carmelo wrote that this uneven power dynamic extends to media coverage of the team, writing, “From the YDN to ESPN, reporters are giving a voice to these players, enabling them to make comments that derail the conversation and perpetuate rape culture.”
Jezebel has so far been unable to independently verify the existence of any official sexual assault complaints against Jack Montague, and a New Haven police spokesman told SI on Friday that neither Yale nor the New Haven Police Department are investigating any sexual assault claims against Montague. Several students in correspondence with Jezebel have repeated the allegations originally seen on the posters without being able to confirm them. A source on campus who described himself as close to the team, speaking anonymously, told Jezebel that a sexual assault claim was made against Montague.
In various interviews with Jezebel, students have mentioned that in their experience, Yale rarely expels students, and underlined the significance that context lends to Montague’s expulsion. When reached for comment on Yale’s expulsion record, Yale press secretary Tom Conroy responded with a link to past UWC reports.
According to the YDN, Yale’s Undergraduate Regulations detail that an expulsion can either be imposed by the Yale College Executive Committee (ExComm) or recommended by the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC). According to Yale’s fall semester sexual misconduct report, released on February 15, none of the 34 sexual misconduct complaints against undergraduate students between July and December 2015 have thus far resulted in expulsion (many cases are still pending). In a chart labeled “Updates to Previous Complaints”—or complaints originally featured in a previous report—a single respondent was listed as expelled for sexual assault. In the previous report, covering events between January and June 2015, one student was expelled for sexual misconduct. The Executive Committee’s most recent biannual report, released in the spring of 2015, details that there were zero expulsions out of 69 cases.
According to sports blog SportzEdge and confirmed by the YDN, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway sent an email to students on the morning of Saturday’s game urging students to “treat each other civilly,” a response that was reportedly criticized on Yale Facebook group “Overheard at Yale” for not directly tackling the campus sexual climate. According to SportzEdge:
Dean Holloway sent an email to the student body saying, in part:
“I know that many of you are upset and angry, and that you are sharing deeply conflicting views. As you engage with each other, I ask that you also treat each other civilly.”
Holloway’s email also said “I am committed to providing a safe campus for all of you, protecting your privacy, preventing harassment of all kinds, and ensuring that you can make your voices heard.”
“I know that I can count on you to join me in this effort by treating each other with respect — especially when you disagree.”
There have been no reports of protests from Yale students at Saturday’s game, but the YDN reports that a Columbia student declared strong views on the matter via red body paint.
A source close to Montague’s family told SI that they plan on releasing a statement within the next week. “The family is working with its lawyers,” the source said. “They want to put an end to the speculation.”
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