Nearly three weeks after the status of former men’s basketball captain Jack Montague ’16 changed from enrolled to withdrawn, the reason behind his withdrawal from the University remains unclear.
Two weeks after the Feb. 10 withdrawal, and following four missed games, a Yale Athletics press release announced that Montague would not be returning to the team this year. Since the announcement, administrators have declined to comment on the nature of Montague’s leave and the reason behind it. Members of the basketball team also declined to make a statement on the situation until their Feb. 26 contest against Harvard.
On that Friday, in front of a sold-out crowd at a nationally televised game, the team took the court wearing unique warm-up shirts that made reference to the former captain. The shirts — which had Montague’s jersey number and nickname, “Gucci,” on the back and “Yale,” spelled backwards with inverted letters, on the front — prompted controversy on campus.
On Monday morning, posters featuring a picture of the team dressed in the shirts and asking Yale men’s basketball to “stop supporting a rapist” appeared all over campus, including at the entrance of Payne Whitney Gymnasium and on bulletin boards on Old Campus, Cross Campus and residential colleges. Athletics administrators and members of the team did not comment on the grounds for the posters’ allegations, and Montague did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Monday.
“We knew, when we wore those shirts, that there was going to be a reaction, and this is the reaction,” forward Justin Sears ’16 said. “We just want to stick together as a team and remain focused.”
The majority of the posters had been taken down by 8 a.m. that same day, most by members of the basketball team.
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.”
Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett and basketball head coach James Jones did not have “any say” in the shirts, Sears told the News on Sunday. He would not confirm whether the coaching staff knew about the players’ plans to wear the shirts before the start of the game.
Montague has retained a lawyer within the last week. Though Montague told the News last Tuesday that he did not have a legal representative at the time, a representative of the local law firm Jacobs & Dow, LLC confirmed Monday that Montague is a client at the firm. However, William Dow III ’63, an attorney at the firm who has represented Yale students in the past, declined to verify whether or not Montague was his client.
“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.”
Jones declined to comment both on the T-shirts and the posters on Monday night, deferring comment to Assistant Director of Sports Publicity Tim Bennett. Bennett also declined to speak on both topics on Monday night.
“The Yale Athletic Department was not involved in the creation of, or the basketball team’s decision to wear the unofficial T-shirts during warm-up for Friday’s game,” Beckett said in an email to the News on Monday.
The team did not wear the shirts on Saturday against Dartmouth.