Early Monday morning, posters were seen at the entrance of Payne Whitney Gymnasium and on bulletin boards around Yale University’s campus that read “Yale Men’s Basketball: Stop Supporting a Rapist.”
The posters—most of which were quickly torn down by members of the men’s basketball team—included a Yale Daily News photo of players at last Friday’s high-profile game against Harvard; in the photo, they were wearing shirts with “GUCCI” and the number 4 written on the back, and “Yale” spelled backwards written on the front.
“Gucci” is the nickname of Yale men’s basketball team captain Jack Montague, and 4 was his jersey number; last week, it was announced that Montague had withdrawn from Yale under circumstances that were not disclosed by the administration, the team or the Yale Daily News. Montague, an American Studies and Political Science major, was set to graduate in May.
“‘Yale’ spelled backwards wasn’t to make a statement. It’s just because Yale is a brand and there was a copyright,” forward Justin Sears ‘16 told the YDN of the shirt.“It was just convenient, at the last minute. Everyone on the team supported it and wanted to show our support for Jack.”
In a subsequent YDN article published on Tuesday that addressed the posters, Sears again addressed the shirts’ backwards spelling of “Yale”:
The shirts have been a “very controversial thing,” Sears said, because some people continue to view the backwards spelling of Yale “symbolically.” Some questioned whether the inversion of the letters was a critique of the University’s role in Montague’s withdrawal, Sears said, but he reiterated comments he made during a Friday night press conference that the shirts were solely a show of support for Montague.
“We just wanted to make it as clear as possible that Jack is one of our brothers,” Sears said. “He’s family to us and we miss him.”
Sears told the YDN: “We knew, when we wore those shirts, that there was going to be a reaction, and this is the reaction.”
According to a source on campus who sent us images, new posters appeared early Wednesday morning. An article published in the YDN Thursday morning reports that the posters were found on chairs inside the Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona lecture hall, Yale’s largest lecture hall; our source claimed that they were also found on bulletin boards around Old Campus and in stairwells in Welch Hall, a freshman dorm:
The YDN reports that another poster read, “YDN, why so silent? Stop protecting a rapist.” According to the YDN, a note scrawled on the lecture hall’s chalkboard read “Rape culture is standing by your teammate and silencing Yale’s victims of sexual assault.” By 8:30 a.m., according to the YDN, the chalkboard message and the posters around the lecture hall were gone; Special Assistant to the Dean of Yale College David Caruso told the YDN that the custodial staff does not clean inside the hall.
The YDN article also points to a statement published by the Yale Women’s Center on their Facebook page last night. The statement reads, in part:
We recognize that FERPA and Yale policy prohibit Yale from commenting on the exact nature of the incident. Though the silence is deeply frustrating to us and surely to many of you, Yale’s actions speak much louder than its words. It appears that Yale has expelled a high-profile member of a sports team in the midst of a pivotal moment in the season on the basis of sexual violence. While we can only speculate about these occurrences, we can comfortably say that, should all of this be true, this is progress.
However, though we can only speculate the intent behind the basketball team’s shirt protest, student’s words and behaviors establish campus norms. The team’s actions seem to us a dismissal of the very real threat of sexual violence.
According to Sears, Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett and head basketball coach James Jones did not have “any say” in the team’s decision to wear the shirts at Friday’s game, which Beckett confirmed in a statement to the YDN. Sears would not say, however, whether staff knew about the shirts ahead of time.
“No one in the team is aware of what happened [to Montague], and the shirts are not a comment on what the administration has done or anything happening with Jack’s situation,” Sears said Sunday night. “It was just to say he is part of the team and we miss him, and because he’s been deleted off the roster and is not mentioned anymore.”
On February 18, the YDN reported that Montague was taking a leave from the team. “I’m taking a personal leave and I’m trying to get back as soon as possible,” he told the paper at the time, declining to comment further. The head coach, five teammates, multiple Yale athletic administrators and the Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communication also declined to comment to the YDN. Yale Director of Sports Publicity Steve Conn said that Montague was taking care of “personal issues,” and refused to comment further. After several weeks of mournful speculation from local sports bloggers, Montague’s permanent withdrawal was announced on February 25. Again, the University declined to provide comment or clarification.
Montague wasn’t necessarily Yale’s star player, but he was a senior captain leading the team during a potentially historic season. The Bulldogs are currently a half-game ahead of Princeton in the Ivy League race and eyeing a spot in the N.C.A.A. tournament for the first time since 1962. “The President (Peter Salovey) is sitting at center court, and it’s a great thing for the school to support your program,” Yale coach James Jones told the New Haven Register following their game against Harvard, which Yale won. According to the Register, the Yale student section chanted “Guc-ci” as the Bulldogs lined up for the National Anthem on Friday.
Multiple students, speaking anonymously, told Jezebel that the men’s basketball team is rumored to be planning a walkout at their March 5 game against Columbia. Several members of the Yale men’s basketball team did not respond to requests for comment, or to interview requests; Justin Sears referred me to his comments in the YDN, adding, “Sorry for being brief but just want the team to stay focused on the games for this weekend.”
We spoke to a number of Yale students, a majority of whom had heard the allegations publicized by the original posters but were unable to independently confirm their legitimacy. One source on campus provided us with screenshots from Yik Yak and Facebook, where students are having heated discussions about Montague’s withdrawal.
An ESPN article published today about the Bulldogs’ N.C.A.A. chances mentioned that Yale players were “careful with their words” regarding Montague’s departure. Senior Brandon Sherrod told ESPN:
“Not having our captain has been really, really tough,” said Sherrod, who added that Montague remains in touch with his former teammates and on the team’s group text. “All the things we’ve worked for, looking back to the preseason and now toward a championship, he was a huge part of that. So, yeah, there’s been some, ‘Get this one for Gucci.’ But we’ve also rallied around one another. Sometimes teams crumble in these sorts of situations, but we’ve showed a lot of resilience.”
Jezebel contacted several members of Yale’s administration asking if they could comment on the posters, and if they could provide any detail as to why Montague withdrew from Yale. Associate Director of Sports Publicity Steve Conn told me to direct my inquiry to the Yale Office of Public Affairs; at the Yale Office of Public Affairs, University Press Secretary Tom Conroy declined to comment. Deputy Press Secretary Karen Peart replied, “The answer to your question is no.”
A representative of New Haven law firm Jacobs & Dow, LLC confirmed with the YDN on Tuesday that Montague is being represented by the firm. Jezebel reached the firm on Thursday morning. “We do not represent Mr. Montague,” said William F. Dow III, a lawyer at the firm. As of publication, Montague has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
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