Brandeis University has fired its men’s basketball coach after years of complaints over his racist and discriminatory behavior toward student-athletes.
In a letter posted to the university’s website last Thursday, President Ronald D. Liebowitz announced the firing of longtime basketball coach Brian Meehan, who was first hired by the school in 2003, The Boston Globe reported. Liebowitz wrote in the letter that many students filed “serious discrimination complaints” against Meehan last year, alleging racially-charged harassment, among other claims.
“I am deeply disturbed by these complaints,” the university president said. “…I want to be absolutely clear: At Brandeis, there is zero tolerance for discriminating against any student, staff member, faculty member, or visitor because of their race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or any other aspect of their identity.”
“Respect for our varied identities, for our similarities and our differences, is an absolute value at Brandeis,” he continued. “It is non-negotiable.”
Initial complaints against the coach were investigated by the Waltham school, after which unspecified disciplinary action was taken. Meehan was placed on immediate administrative leave after a new complaint last month, which ultimately led to his termination after a review of his prior alleged incidents. The university’s athletic director, Lynne Dempsey, was also placed on administrative leave last week.
Though Meehan’s firing stems from complaints made by players in May 2017, a Deadspin article revealed the university had knowledge of the coach’s racist behavior stretching as far back as 2013 and did nothing about it. The news site spoke with the parents of three former Brandeis players, four former players and an ex-student manager, who all shared damning details of the coach’ abusive behavior.
One player recounted a particular incident where Meehan told a Black player, “I’ll ship you back to Africa.” The former student manager, who is Jewish, said the coach would routinely refer to him as a “Jew boy,” Deadspin reported.
On MLK Day in 2017, another player who was running drills on the white side of his white-black reversible jersey said Meehan remarked to him that, “being white must be a dream come true.” He allegedly also asked three Black players to re-enact the “see no evil,” “hear no evil,” “speak no evil” monkey emojis.
“We didn’t understand it at first, but then I looked at my phone,” one unnamed player said. “…I didn’t do it, because I didn’t know what he was talking about, and then I looked at my phone and was like, ‘What the heck?’ ”
In the wake of the coach’s firing, Brandeis University officials said they have since hired two outside lawyers to conduct an independent investigation of the school’s policies and procedures.
“They’ll be charged with reviewing our systems, climate, and culture of handling complaints, and will recommend actions and changes, including those related to personnel,” Liebowitz said in a statement. “Our campus community deserves a thorough and objective look at what occurred here, and we will use this information to make improvements.”