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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bands Behaving Badly

If you were watching the NCAA Tournament this past week, specifically the Southern Miss-K-State game, it's possible you were taken aback by this:



While not in the foreground, spectators can clearly be heard chanting "Where's your green card?" as Angel Rodriguez, a Latino player who hails from Puerto Rico, takes the line. Those spectators were members of the Southern Miss band.

Were.

The president of Southern Miss issued a statement before the day was out that this did not represent the views of the University or the pep band, and the news came earlier today that the offending students had been removed from the pep band and had their scholarships revoked, among other sanctions. While I've been on the internet long enough to know better, I couldn't help but read the comments in that and other related articles. Those who believed  that the disciplinary actions taken were too harsh seemed to harp on the loss of scholarships, seemingly believing that the students lost full rides and not the couple hundred dollars that is probably more likely to have been the scholarship amount.

First of all, I think that Southern Miss did the right thing and I applaud their efforts.The actions of these students were a black eye on what should have been a joyous occasion for the Golden Eagles--making the tournament field after an 11 year drought and playing on national television. In fact, the fact that it was on this stage is both why any of us are even aware this took place and why Southern Miss had to act. The chant was, of course, bigoted (and ill-informed, considering that as a Puerto Rican man, Rodriguez is and has always been a US citizen) and reflects ill on the school and frankly, the deep south as a whole--how many folks decried the bigotry while simultaneously displaying their own prejudice: "Well, it IS Mississippi."

Full disclosure: I hail from a pep band that has had brushes with the best of judgment before. While we generally steered clear of personal attacks and certainly didn't rise to this level of bigotry, there has been the occasional referee warning, at least one tech that I can remember, and having been asked to write a remorseful letter to a certain faith-based school after our demeanor at a conference tournament was *ahem* less than holy. Still, our actions took place largely in our own gym and occasionally at a conference tournament. And in the days before ESPN3 and ESPNU, there was no chance that a Northeastern Conference quarterfinal matchup was being seen by anyone not there in the gym. Whatever misrepresentation we made of UMBC Athletics was between us, our conferencemates, and perhaps a local reporter. Southern Miss had both the benefit and misfortune of putting theirs forth for the world to see.
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