Robbie Short

Nearly three weeks after the status of former men’s basketball captain Jack Montague ’16 changed from enrolled to withdrawn, the reason behind his withdrawal from the University remains unclear.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.

  • SY15

    Most of campus is aware of why Montague is no longer at Yale–does Sears really expect us to believe the basketball team, his close friends, has no idea? Nice try.

    • concerned

      For decades Yale University addressed these very serious problems by making a very concerted effort to hide them and in practice did not report or respond in accordance with federal mandates. Not surprisingly, current top administrators are part of this legacy which has included a history of severe retaliation against and job losses for women faculty and staff. The departure of a team captain involved with progressing a varsity team in league play warrants the respect of full disclosure by these same administrators who have themselves simply stood on the sidelines for decades to assure the advancement of their individual careers at Yale University. Plus bonuses from the Corporation.

      • rdomemphis

        They don’t have to report anything to the public. They are a private school and as long as they answer the questions of the police in this matter, are cooperating. If an employee of your business ALLEGEDLY broke a law, you wouldn’t want your reputation stained by an accusation. The Duke Lacrosse team incident and the James Winston incident along with countless others should have taught us to wait for the truth. To my dismay, rumors an innuendo, anecdotal hearsay and the myth from activists, reveal the lie to the public and when the truth comes out it is perceived as the lie. Now a university is vilified by your own words as they do the responsible action – keeping their mouth shut. If this man did something, I hope they prosecute him to the fullest extent of law. I look forward to the truth.

        • Peter

          If this man did something, he should be prosecuted and convicted. If he did not do anything, however, he should still be in school. The University seems very careful to avoid a libel suit, something the Womens’ Center and others seem to be inviting with their unsubstantiated smears.

  • aaaa_dad

    As an avid fan of all Bulldogs’ sports, the outcome of this will be interesting to say the least. I look back at the incident with Patrick Witt and have to think that the fallout from Witt (withdrawn Rhodes candidacy, loss of job offer, cooling of interest from NFL teams) had to weigh on the administrators’ decision on Montague. Regardless, for Montague to withdraw as a student from Yale is not unlike an Olympic athlete training years to make the team and then deciding to not travel to the Olympic city for some unknown reason. Just a few months from accomplishing a most prestigious milestone that will greatly influence his career trajectory, Montague must have been put to an ultimatum from which a WD was the better option.

    I was at the Harvard game in which the players wore the “Gucci 4” t-shirts. I saw many students jumping up and down euphorically while repeatedly chanting “Gucci!” and recording that demonstration of support for their friend. At times of adversity, the support of family and friends will undoubtedly help an individual to overcome the challenge at hand. But, if the reason for Montague’s departure is due to some impropriety deemed inexcusable, then I am certain that his friends and teammates will rethink their actions as their exuberance can be interpreted as an attack on the victim(s), if any exist.

  • dhartm2

    Clearly into that whole Yale thing.

  • Dittersdorf451

    If the players were showing solidarity with their former captain, I applaud that. But if they were protesting the way in which Yale adjudicates allegations of sexual misconduct, then I applaud that even more enthusiastically. That the standard necessary to expel someone is only preponderance of the evidence, not clear and convincing evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt, is bad enough, but it is mandated by the federal government. However, the lack of discovery and the lack of effective cross-examination at many campuses is craven and indefensible. I suggest that everyone who wants to know more about this issue should read KC Johnson’s posts at Minding the Campus.

  • ronchris

    A judgment by Yale can’t deem anyone a “rapist” any more than it can deem someone an “armed robber” or a “drug dealer”—two other crimes that powerful advocates of the campus status quo, Sen. Claire McCaskill and Catherine Lhamon of OCR, have bizarrely claimed that colleges currently investigate.

    But, as the Montague case reveals, that fiction is just that—a fiction—with both students and the public at large interpreting any university action as a determination that the accused party has committed a serious felony. This reality makes it all the more important that Yale have a fair process.