Members of Tufts men’s lacrosse team are facing a two-game suspension after an external investigation revealed they were guilty of “unacceptable” behavior at a women’s home volleyball game against Smith College last semester.

The investigation was prompted by an editorial in the Tufts Daily that alleged players of the Smith and Tufts women’s volleyball teams were “subjected to sexist and racist heckling from male fans.” The behavior was described as “threatening.” Fans reportedly screamed, “Look at those child bearing hips,” when a player squatted to receive a serve. Or, “You’re gonna get deported” to one Latina player every time she hit the ball.

Following the report, Tufts Director of Athletics Bill Gehling and John Barker, the dean of undergraduate and graduate students, told the community an investigation was underway. Spectators, players and coaches from both Tufts and Smith College were interviewed, according to a letter from Gehling and Barker, which states: “The investigation concluded that unacceptable behavior did occur, and members of our men’s lacrosse team were responsible for that behavior.”

Members of the lacrosse team who attended the game will be benched for two of their own during the upcoming season, and have also been asked to write letters of apology to both the Tufts and Smith coaches and their teams.

Gehling and Barker write:

We want to stress that the behavior documented in the OEO investigation would be unthinkable in a classroom or residence hall, and it is equally unacceptable at a sporting event. There is no scenario within collegiate team sports that would support the use of race or gender as the basis for jeering, heckling, or taunting members of a team.

Before someone comments, “Heckling happens at every sporting event,” let me utter these two words: Boston University.

The men’s hockey team made headlines last year. One player pleaded guilty to assault charges last summer and a second player had rape charges against him dropped due to a lack of evidence. The team was later described as having a “culture of sexual entitlement,” and the University took blame, as well, saying, “These failings include issues of institutional control and governance structure at the highest levels.”

So, for anyone compelled to argue Tufts overreacted, just remember how quickly one incident can spiral out of control. For all we know, this “culture of sexual entitlement” could have started with heckling.


Image via Lacrosse Playground