A group of Kansas State student-athletes of color says its members will not participate in “all athletic related events” unless the university takes action in the wake of a tweet by a student mocking the death of George Floyd.
In a statement issued Friday by senior defensive back Jonathan Alexander, the group asked for “A Policy created against racism that will expel any student that openly displays racism on all platforms such as, social media, school, Aggieville, and sporting events.”
Christianna Carr, a junior guard on the women’s basketball team, posted a similar statement with the same requests to her Twitter account, promising not to play if those steps aren’t taken.
The group also asked that the student who sent the tweet, Jaden McNeil, “receive strong consequences.”
“We need to see change to ensure our safety on and off campus,” the group said.
On Saturday, over a dozen football players, including quarterback Skylar Thompson, tweeted a statement saying that “we as a football team” demand the same actions from the university.
I stand with my brothers. @KState pic.twitter.com/ReZmEh6PoL
— Skylar Thompson (@skylar_15) June 27, 2020
Later Saturday evening, the athletic department on Saturday said it respected its students’ fight against racism.
K-State Athletics, along with President Myers and University leadership, respect and support our student-athletes in standing up in the fight against racism. At @KState we are a family and we will work together to make our campus community an even better place to call home.
— K-State Athletics (@kstatesports) June 28, 2020
McNeil had tweeted Thursday afternoon, one month after the killing of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, “Congratulations to George Floyd on being drug free for an entire month!”
McNeil’s tweet has been widely condemned by the university’s leadership, including athletic director Gene Taylor and football coach Chris Klieman, as well as players.
Kansas State president Richard Myers said Friday that the university is launching an immediate review of its options.
“We condemn racism and bigotry in all its forms,” he said. “Black Lives Matter at Kansas State University and we will continue to fight for social justice.’
McNeil describes himself as the founder of a conservative group called America First Students, which Kansas State said is not currently registered on campus because of a lack of membership. America First Students had already drawn the ire of students for past statements made by McNeil. Students released a video last week under the #BlackAtKState hashtag and asked for America First Students to be removed from campus. And a petition has circulated on Twitter asking that the group be banned from campus because it spreads “hateful rhetoric,” The Manhattan Mercury reported.
McNeil did not respond to a message to America First Students from The Associated Press seeking comment Friday. He had previously said America First Students is a “mainstream, Christian, conservative organization that supports President Donald Trump.”
Freshman cornerback Tee Denson was among the players to speak out against McNeil’s tweet, saying he would “refuse to play for a program that tolerates ignorance such as this.”
Senior defensive back Walter Neil Jr. and sophomore wide receiver Joshua Youngblood also tweeted that they would not play for the school unless McNeil is removed from campus. Youngblood has since removed that tweet but also posted: “Football does not define my teammates or myself. We have emotions, and we are regular people with real feelings. Playing is sport is literally 10% of who we really are.”
Football does not define my teammates or myself. We have emotions, and we are regular people with real feelings. Playing is sport is literally 10% of who we really are.
— Joshua Youngblood (@YB060) June 26, 2020
Taylor and Klieman both criticized McNeil’s tweet and said they would not tolerate racial hate on campus.
“Recent tweets from a K-State student downplaying the Black Lives Matter effort and the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd are disgusting and totally inappropriate and not reflective of who we are as a University or our Athletic Department,” Taylor said.
“Our program and our coaches will continue to be part of the solution when it comes to racial injustice,” Klieman said. “I love our players and they know I have their backs.”
ESPN’s Dave Wilson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.