Howard University lacrosse team verbally assaulted with racial slurs before game in S.C. 

Coach Karen Healy-Silcott said the castigating shouts began as soon as the women's team entered Presbyterian College's stadium.

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The women’s lacrosse team of Howard University says its squad was verbally assaulted with racial slurs and demeaning sexual terms at their Presbyterian College game in Clinton, South Carolina, on Friday. 

According to a report from NBC News, coach Karen Healy-Silcott said the castigating shouts — reportedly from a gang of tailgating young white males — began as soon as the team entered Bailey Memorial Stadium for its scheduled season opener. 

Howard University women’s lacrosse coach Karen Healy-Silcott (above) said the castigating shouts began as soon as the team entered Bailey Memorial Stadium for Friday’s scheduled season opener. (Photo: Edward C. Jones/HUBison.com)

“Our first steps onto the field, we were greeted with, ‘F— Howard! You’re not welcome here!’” Healy-Silcott told the network. They said, ‘We don’t want you here!’ They told us to go home.” 

“They shouted, ‘If it ain’t white, it ain’t right!’” she added. “We were looking at each other, wondering if we were actually hearing this.”

Healy-Silcott said she and her players resolved to deal with the issue after the game, when they discussed the origins of lacrosse as a sport invented more than 1,000 years ago by indigenous people as a way to cope with their hurt and disappointment. 

Sports Illustrated notes that lacrosse was often taught to North American indigenous people in Canada as a way of assimilating them into society, and the game actually preceded their admission in Canadian schools. Lacrosse was once incorporated into some religious ceremonies, used to encourage respect and peace, and has even been called “a medicine game,” believed to have healing powers. 

Howard University is one of only two HBCUs with a women’s lacrosse team, the second being Delaware State University.

For the Howard students under her charge, Healy-Silcott said, the experience was difficult. “It’s not something they should have to face and not something they should ever have heard. It was a really terrible day. But they persevered and were able to play, and I’m really proud of the way we responded as a team.”

In a statement issued Monday, Presbyterian College President Matthew vandenBerg called the “racist, misogynistic, and hateful behaviors exhibited by individuals on the day in question … an abomination” with “no place anywhere in civilized society, let alone at PC.”

“Numerous students, faculty, staff, and alumni have contacted me to express their outrage, utter embarrassment, and disbelief that such behavior can even happen today on our campus,” he contended.

Further, vandenBerg wrote, “Our hearts hurt for our visitors from Howard University. They also hurt for women and people of color in the PC [Presbyterian College] community, many of whom have told me they feel less safe on their own campus because of the actions of select students. We, as a community, stand with them and are committed to their safety and ability to flourish.” 

Presbyterian College says it’s conducting an internal probe, and has offered free in-person and virtual counseling sessions for members of its community who feel unsafe. 

Southern University and A&M College, Alcorn State University, Morgan State University, Edward Waters University, Albany State University, Bethune-Cookman University, Bowie State University and Delaware State University joins Howard on the list of historically Black colleges and universities targeted by bomb threats made in early February. About two weeks ago, six unidentified juveniles described as “tech savvy” were reportedly identified as persons of interest by the FBI.

A spokesperson from the legendary Washington, D.C.-based HBCU wrote that they are “deeply troubled” by the incident. While he expressed appreciation for the initial response from Presbyterian College, Howard Athletic Director Kery Davis told The Washington Post that the school demands a thorough investigation, writing in a statement, “We condemn this deplorable behavior, and will continually support, defend and protect our Bison.”

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