A black college tennis player tweeted out over the weekend that a white opponent of his made numerous racist comments to him during their match.
John Wilson IV, who attends Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University in North Carolina, a historically black college, said that his opponent, Spencer Brown, from Appalachian State University, made a series of racially charged comments when they played each other on Sunday. Among them, Brown said to Wilson, “At least I know my dad.”
Wilson documented the allegations against Brown on his Twitter account, which also described how Brown’s coach reacted to Wilson bringing it up.
Hey #NCAT this is Spencer brown, a tennis player at Appalachian state. During our match today, along with other racist comments, Spencer told me, “At least I know my dad.” Their coach responded by saying, “..we have a black guy on our team.”— John Wilson IV (@jpheze) January 29, 2018
Black twitter, do ya thing. pic.twitter.com/ZRN61zCU2n
Coach Bob Lake told Wilson, “we have a black guy on our team,” suggesting that the racist comments were in jest and didn’t mean anything. Of course, having a “black friend” or teammate doesn’t preclude one from being a racist — and the comment by the coach didn’t go unnoticed by the school he works for either.
Both coach and player received suspensions for their comments to Wilson. Brown will be suspended indefinitely for his racist words, while Lake will be suspended from coaching for the next four matches due to his dismissal of his player’s actions.
“Appalachian State Athletics is wholeheartedly dedicated to the university’s commitment to diversity of thought, belief, and community,” Athletics Director Doug Gillin said in announcing Lake’s suspension.
Following the announcements, Wilson returned to Twitter to express his appreciation of action on behalf of Appalachian State University.
Update: Even though I have yet to be reached out personally from the administration of Appalachian State. The athletics program suspended Spencer indefinitely! Thank you all for the help, this is something I’ve always dealt with being a black tennis player. #NCAT pic.twitter.com/9MqHvTe6fR— John Wilson IV (@jpheze) January 29, 2018
Racism in sports isn’t a new thing of course, but it’s still something we should shine a light on when it happens. Exposing bigoted athletes and their coaches goes a long way toward ensuring similar behavior won’t be tolerated in the future, especially if consequences are carried out in meaningful ways.
Appalachian State University deserves commendation for reacting to an opposing players’ complaints in a proactive manner. Wilson also did the right thing by voicing his concerns publicly — it resulted in a racist athlete being suspended, and an ignorant coach hopefully learning an important lesson about diversity.