Senior members of the Columbia University men's wrestling team that participated in a racist, sexist group chat have issued a formal apology for the messages—and, following an investigation from the university, some were suspended from the team for the remainder of the academic year, while others were barred for competing until the spring semester.
The university said in a statement today that the "deeply offensive group messaging and texts were written, sent and viewed by a distinct group within the wrestling team" and that, although all team members "feel a sense of collective responsibility and regret for what was done by some," the wrestlers who participated in the chat "acted on their own."
"As a team, we want to make it clear to everyone that we understand the fact that these offensive text messages are inexcusable," team members wrote in a letter published by the Columbia news outlet Bwog, which also originally published the leaked messages.
The messages date back to 2014, but some were as recent as November of this year. "Columbia bitches feel entitled to something when In reality [sic] they are all ugly socially awkward cunts," one 2014 message reads. Other messages show team members calling women "fish pussy," a "Latina ass pornstar," and referring to black women as "nigs."
The wrestlers' racist language wasn't limited to Columbia students or the surrounding community. During a discussion of the 2014 protests that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown was fatally shot by police, at least one player referred to protesters as "nigs" and mocked protesters who were "stealing shit from pawn shops and liquor stores."
Messages from 2014 also include philosophical musings on "the invention of time," and at least one wrestler's belief that "people in Africa still can't tell time and that's why even if we give them free aids [sic] medicine they wouldn't be able to use it properly."
After the messages were published, a group of students protested in front of the university's Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house on 114th Street—according to Bwog, KDR is widely considered the school's "athlete" fraternity, and many wrestlers are members.
The university did not name which of the 37 students on the team were disciplined or clarify how many were punished. Bwog did not publish the wrestlers' names because "the messages are part of a greater issue." But after publishing the team's apology letter, Bwog's editorial staff seemed skeptical of how the team would achieve the "culture change" they promised without a clear plan for accountability.
We realize that what was done was extremely wrong. There is no excuse for this behavior. All of us have gained an entirely new perspective on how hurtful the comments made by members of our team truly are. These messages are not just words or playful jokes between teammates. This has been a wake-up call for our team. A culture change is obviously needed—and, rest assured, it will take place. We are prepared for any deserved repercussions from our actions.
The university withdrew from its open-season meeting last Sunday at Binghamton and postponed the team's season while the investigation was underway. The wrestlers who were not implicated in the messages will be allowed to continue the season as per usual, university spokesperson Caroline Adelman told Gothamist.
"While I am exceedingly disappointed in light of these circumstances, we, as a program, take full responsibility," wrestling coach Zach Tanelli said in a statement. "Not only do we demand that the harming and offensive language end; we want Columbia Wrestling to be part of the solution toward cultural competency and systemic change."