Bleacher Bits: They didn't learn this at band camp
The state of Mississippi, especially when mentioned in the context of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, has never been regarded as the paragon of cultural diversity.
But in Mississippi, just as in any town in California, there are plenty of "good people" who should not be stereotyped by the actions of a few.
Members of the pep band from the University of Southern Mississippi made national news last week during the Golden Eagles' 70-64 loss to Kansas State in the opening round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Let's just say they "struck a sour note."
During the first half of the contest, Kansas State player Angel Rodriguez stepped to the free-throw line after being fouled. That's when chants of "Where's your green card?" were heard coming from the band section. And of course, the video footage went viral the same day.
Now this was NOT the school's cheering section, nor was it the entire band. But on Tuesday, the school announced that the five band members involved in the chant were not only removed from the band, but had their scholarships revoked. In addition, they will be required to complete a two-hour cultural sensitivity training course.
The chant was terribly inappropriate on its own, but also illustrated that these five students needed to pay more attention in their government classes.
You see Rodriguez, a freshman at Kansas State, was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Miami, where he was a standout high-school basketball player. Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, under no circumstances would Rodriguez be required to have a green card.
The band members were ignorant on two fronts.
The University wasted no time in rectifying the situation, as school personnel went to the hotel where Kansas State's team was staying and issued an apology. Rodriguez said he accepted the apology because "there's ignorant people and I know that's not how they want to represent their university."
Dr. Joe Paul, vice president for student affairs at the University of Southern Mississippi said in a statement, "The students have been forthcoming, cooperative, contrite and sincerely remorseful. They acted rashly and inappropriately, and now see the gravity of their words and actions. This is a teachable moment, not only for these students but for our entire student body and those who work with them."
It is my hope that it is a lesson that reaches far outside the realm of athletics.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or email@example.com.