Five University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire football players behind a racist Snapchat post mocking a Black student organization have been suspended and now face an investigation by the university.
Screenshots of their chat thread were circulated among students last week, sparking outrage across campus. The conversation started with one player mentioning a meeting put on by the Black Male Empowerment club, and included a black-and-white photo of a Ku Klux Klan cross burning.
“For all who cannot make the BME meeting, (name of student) and I are holding WME tonight at 7,” the message reads, seemingly playing off the acronym, replacing black with white.
In another message, one of the players joke about the other being “the grand wizard.”
“I’ll be there in like five minutes,” another wrote. “Think the cross will still be burning? Don’t wanna miss that again.”
The thread continues with the players poking fun over their fictional cross burning, with one questioning why they were wasting their time burning wood.
“Honestly just find someone who doesn’t have the same views as you or looks a little different and burn them,” they wrote.
UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt addressed the incident Wednesday, saying he was “thoroughly disgusted” and angered by the messages.
“These symbols and pictures [and] comments harken back to some of the darkest days in our country’s history,” Schmidt told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an interview.
He also released a statement on social media, saying the university would not tolerate such racism.
Blugolds, today a thread of racist messages that included a photograph of a burning cross was used to target members of the @BMEMPOWERMENT group. Our campus will not tolerate this racist action. I have asked the Dean of Students Office to investigate and take appropriate action.
— Chancellor Jim (@ChancellorJim) November 19, 2019
“I have asked the Dean of Students Office to investigate and take appropriate action,” he added.
Dennis Beale, a founder of Black Male Empowerment, said he was equally “appalled” by the post and called for justice to be served in the incident. On Facebook, he explained, “[BME] was designed to help change the perception of African-American males on a predominately white campus — along with exemplifying the black excellence that these young men display on a daily basis.”
“It’s very disturbing to see the backlash we get from the people in our own backyard,” he added.
Schmidt said he anticipates the investigation into the incident will wrap up quickly, adding that the players responsible could face a range of punishments — though he didn’t give specifics.
Stats from the UW System show racial minorities accounted for just 10 percent of the campus’ student body in 2018, with African-Americans comprising just 2.4 percent of that. As the university recruits more non-white students to its campus, Schmidt said inclusivity training is a must for all students at orientation.
“We are not naive enough to think that we’re going to wipe out racism on our campus, because we are a reflection of society,” he told the newspaper. “I would hope through the efforts of so many on our campus, that we could be a better reflection of society.”
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire didn’t return requests for comment.