HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Southern Mississippi has revoked the scholarships of five members of its pep band who took part in the heckling of a Kansas State basketball player at last Thursday’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament game.
The school announced Tuesday that the five students also were removed from the band and will be required to complete a two-hour cultural sensitivity training course this week.
The students have not been identified.
Southern Miss issued an apology last week to Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez after he was the target of chants of “Where’s your green card?” during the Wildcats’ 70-64 second-round victory in the NCAA tournament. Rodriguez had 13 points and four assists in the game that was played in Pittsburgh.
Video of the chanting went viral after being posted on YouTube that same day.
Rodriguez said he heard the chants and USM’s athletic director and personnel from the school came to the team hotel to apologize.
“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,” Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Joe Paul said in a statement. “This is a teachable moment, not only for these students but for our entire student body and those who work with them.”
Mississippi Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds has said the state’s College Board would leave any disciplinary decision to Southern Miss.
Rodriguez said last week that he accepted the apology because “there’s ignorant people and I know that’s not how they want to represent their university.”
Rodriguez said he doesn’t pay attention to that “nonsense, especially because Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, so we don’t need no type of papers.”
Bill Chandler of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliances said Tuesday he was pleased Southern Miss took action “to stop this overt expression of racism that was against a Latino.”
“This demonstrates the ignorance of many people when it comes to immigrants whether they are students in college or legislators or the governor of Mississippi,” Chandler said. “As in the past, public officials create the atmosphere for hateful acts in their pronouncements against people of color and others. It leads to latent racism and they need to stop it.”
MIRA lobbies for immigrant rights issues at the state and local level.