Controversies surrounding the Yale men’s basketball team intensified this weekend, with limited administrative response and ongoing team support for former captain Jack Montague.
The on-campus disagreement first began when the team took the court during a Feb. 26 game wearing special warmup T-shirts in support of Montague, whose father told the New Haven Register last Thursday that Montague was expelled from the University. Although forward Justin Sears ’16 said after the game that the shirts were simply a show of support for a “brother” and were not a protest against the University, posters criticizing the team’s actions appeared around campus the following week. Many featured a photograph of team members in the T-shirts, calling on them to “stop supporting a rapist.”
On Saturday morning, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway sent an email to all undergraduate students addressing the situation and asking community members to “treat other civilly.” Just a few minutes after the email was sent, Fish Stark ’17, a staff columnist for the News, posted an edited version of the email to the popular campus Facebook group Overheard at Yale, asserting that Holloway should have directly addressed campus sexual climate rather than calling for civility.
That same night, the team’s show of support continued during Yale’s game at Columbia, a victory that sealed an outright Ivy League title and NCAA Tournament berth for the team. After the buzzer sounded and the team swarmed at halfcourt, many players celebrated by raising four fingers, representing the number on Montague’s jersey. Guard Khaliq Ghani ’16 wrote “Gucci,” Montague’s nickname, on his wrist tape for the game. Head coach James Jones also lent support to Montague in a post-game interview with ESPN.
“Jack knows how we feel about him — we love him,” Jones said. “He’s a great young man and we love him.”
But most reactions were not as positive. Stark’s post quickly caught the attention of the student body, with hundreds of likes and comments. Many reiterated allegations made on campus posters. But others cautioned their peers to wait for confirmation about the reason for Montague’s departure before expressing an opinion.
Many commenters also called for greater transparency from the University, which has stayed largely silent on the case and declined to confirm any allegations made against Montague. But because the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibits educational institutions from releasing a student’s private academic records without the student’s prior written consent, administrators have declined to comment.
Student reactions and administrative silence came from beyond New Haven as well. During Saturday’s game in New York, one student spectator from Columbia removed his T-shirt mid-game, showing the phrase “The Yale capt. is a rapist” written in red paint on his chest.
“It was the silent protest on the part of Yale’s team that frustrated me most,” the student, who asked to remain anonymous, told the News. “People who come forward with allegations of sexual assault have very little to gain by doing so, especially given their anonymity. They also have a lot to lose.”
The student added that he was motivated to act independently because of actions taken by the Columbia athletic department to keep students from making references to Yale’s former basketball captain during the contest.
On Friday, a Columbia sports marketing director asked representatives from each of Columbia’s spirit groups in their weekly meeting to “be sensitive” about their cheers and presence at the game given the recent controversies on Yale’s campus.
“There wasn’t any rationale given, it kind of just felt like common sense,” said Adam Chelminski, head manager of Columbia’s marching band. “Our drum major and I respected their decision, especially considering that it’s still very unclear what happened with the captain.”
The Yale men’s basketball team will play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament later this month.