The Syracuse lacrosse team was close to losing a player, Drew Jenkins, to a personal boycott earlier this season after a coach described an opposing player as "colored," an article written by New York Times contributor Michael Cohen said on Saturday.
Cohen, who recently just graduated from SU and is also Syracuse.com's beat writer for the Syracuse football team, wrote a Times' piece that detailed how race still plays a role in one of the whitest sports in America.
Jenkins' story, which stemmed from a comment from assistant coach Lelan Rogers, was one of a few examples Cohen used.
Drew Jenkins, a junior midfielder for Syracuse who is black, said the defense was going over scouting reports when Rogers used the word. Jenkins said he considered boycotting the next game and asking the two other black players on the roster to join him before ultimately deciding against it. He did, he said, demand an apology from Rogers.
“I didn’t mean it in a derogatory way,” Rogers said. “I made a comment — an inappropriate comment. It was wrong at the time. I apologized there, on the spot. I apologized again to the team later. I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I meant it in a good way. But obviously it came across not in a positive way.”
According to the article, the unfortunate incident has all been worked out and everything seems to be well on the Syracuse squad. However, I was a bit surprised to hear Orange head coach John Desko say this:
“Sometimes I think you find it confusing if you have to call someone an Afro-American or have to describe somebody,” Desko said. “I am sometimes myself confused on what is appropriate and what isn’t.”
Now, I am not out to get Desko but that is a pretty ignorant comment, especially for a man in a prominent leadership position that is in charge of coaching African-American players. It is not enough to call for backlash, but Desko should know what is acceptable to say and NOT to say. In a situation like this, it is not OK to use ignorance to defend an insensitive comment by an assistant coach.
I guess, that was the point of Cohen's article, which should get lacrosse fans talking before this weekend's events.
Update: Syracuse University athletic director Daryl Gross released a statement responding to the New York Times' piece.
"We are always trying to ensure and maintain a healthy culture of awareness and diversity and we are extremely sensitive to offensive behavior or statements that are made that harm these principles.
"This incident occurred several months ago and it was addressed through the proper University channels as soon as I was made aware of it. The matter was handled internally with an emphasis on apology, accountability and education.
"Our institution has tremendous educational and awareness resources and programming that we employ and continue to use as often as needed to ensure total respect and understanding. Though individuals make mistakes, ignorance is not an excuse and we do not condone regretful statements.
"We have an amazingly diverse culture within our athletics department which is reflected in our administration, student-athletes and coaches and we will continue to educate all of our student-athletes and staff in regards to appropriate behavior."