Saint Mary’s Huskies football players face suspension for offensive tweets

Saint Mary's Huskies football
Saint Mary's Huskies football

While the Saint Mary's Huskies men's hockey team quietly shutout the Dalhousie Tigers 3-0 to move to .500 in a Halifax cross-rivalry in men's hockey on Tuesday night, the athletic community in the city continued to buzz about the suspension of a number of Saint Mary's varsity football players for their tweets of "hate, racism and sexism."

First reported by the University of King’s College journalism school UNews, the story has gone viral and is receiving national and international attention. Sadly, it's another black eye for the proud Saint Mary's community, one that supports its student-athletes well and with pride.

The campus is still recovering for controversial, pro-rape Frosh Week chants that prompted a university administration response of 20 recommendations to help students.

According to Saint Mary's University's Steve Proctor, between six and 10 players will be suspended from the team immediately and an investigation is underway.

What is admirable is the action being taken by the university. However, what is troubling, perhaps, is that it took the athletic department a media story to react more severely to the issue.

“The comments posted by these individuals are completely inappropriate and unacceptable,” said Dr. David Gauthier, Vice-President Academic and Research at SMU, in a statement. “They are inconsistent with our university values and with what we have committed to address as recommendations from the President’s Council Report.”

The players are being suspended by Director of Athletics David Murphy as a result of violation of the SMU Student-Athlete Agreement for bringing the reputation of the university into disrepute. All student-athletes at Saint Mary's, like those at many other CIS member institutions, sign agreements with universities on behaviour, including social media comments.

Once the university confirms the student-athletes are the authors of the offensive social media posts (many of the accounts in question have since been removed), further disciplinary action may be taken following an investigation.

In December, the university endorsed a report from an independent council that contains 20 recommendations on cultural changes to prevent sexual violence and inspire respectful behavior and a safe learning environment at Saint Mary’s.

The incident raises a number of questions for both administrators and the public:

  • Is it a case of "guys being guys" and trying to be tough and think that this kind of deplorable language is cool and funny?

  • Or is it a case of straightforward insensitivity amongst this generation of young men?

  • What about the comments made by head coach Perry Marchese in the UNews story?

    • Should Marchese's players have been called into a meeting?

    • Will all players now undergo sensitivity training and if so what will that accomplish now that damage has been done?

    • Is a team-run the right kind of punishment and will it accomplish anything?

It seems like with this kind of message nothing will change. Sending players for a run is not punishment. If the school wants to take this seriously, the athletics department should suspend these student-athletes indefinitely and send a message.

Another thing to consider.

  • Under current regulations, it's hard for either governing body - the CIS or the AUS - to do more than support or condemn the university's decision. But maybe it's time now for the CIS and its membership to review its policies. Should, perhaps, the CIS and conferences be given jurisdiction to issue matching punitive measures and suspend inappropriate behaviour? After all, this is another negative story surfacing and impacting all brands involved.

Either way, damage has been done and it's hard not to feel for the rest of the campus that now has to deal with the TV cameras, pot-shots in the media and reputation hit Saint Mary's now faces.

The link below is taken from the bottom of the UNews story and is a published sample of the tweets in question. Please note some of this language is suitable for mature audiences only. Reader discretion is advised (via Storify)