The women's basketball team at William Peace University has sent a clear statement to their school's administration. Shortly before a matchup with Mary Baldwin University, the team walked off the court in support of their teammate, Lauryn Cross. Cross has been suspended twice after she was called racial slurs by opposing players.
The first incident in question took place in January. During a game, the star point guard said that an opposing player had repeatedly hurled racial slurs toward her. Cross then says the opposing player approached the referees and told them that Cross was the troublemaker. When the officials failed to resolve the matter, Cross defended herself by punching the young woman in the face.
"Basically she had called me a [a racial slur]. And then she had walked to the ref and told him 'can you please watch number 15. You know how they get.' Referring to the color of my skin," she told ABC 11.
"She said what [racial slur]. And my reaction was I punched her. I have apologized for my actions. I was just very, very upset. I've never been called a [racial slur] bravely to my face."
The 20-year-old point guard was suspended four games for the punch, but it is unclear if the opposing player faced any disciplinary action. Unfortunately, this was not the last time that Cross dealt with racism on the court this season. During a game against Meredith College last week, another player hurled a racial slur at Cross. After the game, the player claims that Cross followed her into the locker room and threatened her. However, Cross disputes these accusations.
"Meredith had reported that I followed them. I went into their locker room. It's a lot of little things that did not happen," she said.
Similar to the first incident, it is unclear if the opposing player from Meredith College faced any disciplinary action. However, the school did issue a statement responding to the accusations made by Cross.
"The Meredith College basketball team and the College's athletics program take accusations of racism, on the court or off, very seriously. This summer, our program made a public statement against racial injustice, and we have vowed that our program would be a shining example of what diversity and acceptance should look like on campus and throughout our country," the school stated.
Ultimately, Cross was suspended yet again for her response to being called a racial slur. This time around, the William Peace University basketball team is sitting out alongside her. Moments before their conference championship game, the team walked off the court and issued a statement.
"The William Peace University Women's basketball team will not be participating in the championship game against North Carolina Wesleyan. This season has been like none others and has taught each of us the importance of family, unity, and how to handle adversity. Before anything else we are women, most of us being women of color," the team stated.
Despite the team's strong message, the school refused to apologize to Cross or her teammates for putting them in such a position. Instead, the school stood by their decision to suspend Cross and claimed that they submitted her concerns to conference officials.
"We are taking steps to ensure that our student-athletes are no longer forced to navigate such inappropriate situations," a spokesperson for William Peace University wrote.
Still, Cross said that she doesn't feel truly supported by the university. Moving forward, she hopes that she can be a leader for other Black student-athletes.
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