FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS) is investigating allegations of racism after a former basketball player accused the head coach of singling out people with dreadlocks.
Former UAFS basketball player Tyler Williams claims head coach Jim Boone said he did not like his hair, and he would not recruit other players whose hair looked the same as Williams’.
A meeting took place at UAFS a few weeks ago to address the issue and Tyler, his parents and coach Boone were all in attendance.
The meeting ended with Tyler being dismissed from the team.
“He told the coach repeatedly, ‘I wanna stay, I wanna play, I wanna stay’ but the coach told him ‘I think we’re off on the wrong foot and you’re no longer part of this program’,” said Tyler’s father, Reginald Williams.
According to Tyler’s family, coach Boone said since Tyler was a senior he did not have to cut his hair, but his policy for new recruits is they can not have dreadlocks.
“He told Tyler that he would never recruit players that had hair like that or hair like yours, and so that kinda bothered him all the way through,” Reginald said.
During the August 16th meeting, Tyler recorded the conversation and according to the family, Boone did not know he was being recorded.
“We’ve emailed the chancellor, we’ve emailed the school, the vice-chancellor, the president of systems there and they sat on it for over two weeks,” Reginald said. “We sent them the letter of the 19th and didn’t hear a thing back, so it was kind of like it was going to be swept under the rug, then we finally got an email back saying we are doing an investigation.”
The family says they want to bring this to light so nothing like this happens again. They say they want coach Boone removed as the head coach.
“When you are in a coaching position you actually have the ability to teach, train, and development and lead other young men,” Reginald said. “But when you’re first interaction is with someone and negative, I don’t like your hair, and it just goes downhill from there and you never take a stance to reconcile it, you just keep defending it. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
Tyler is now playing basketball and finishing his senior year at Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma.
Chancellor Terisa Riley released the following statement about the allegations:
“By now, many of you have read about an allegation of discrimination based on race which has been widely publicized on social media involving a head coach and a former student. Today, my message is sent in the spirit of transparency which I have promised to you as your chancellor.
First, the university received a copy of the allegation from a student and his parents approximately two weeks ago. At that time, the allegation was sent to the university’s EEO officer in the Department of Human Resources to be investigated. This is our standard practice for investigating any allegations of wrong-doing against employees of the university. The Department of Human Resources has not issued a final report; thus, I will not comment on specifics of the investigation in order to protect the rights of the employee and former student.
The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith will not tolerate racism or retaliation. We never want a student to leave the university feeling disrespected or devalued, and this situation serves as a powerful reminder that we must continually assess and work to create an inclusive environment that values all members of our community.”