A historically Black college has withdrawn its women's volleyball team from a local conference tournament after one of their players was subjected to racial abuse.
A Talladega College player reported receiving a “racially motivated picture” during the Southern States Athletic Conference volleyball awards banquet in Montgomery, Alabama. School and athletics officials confirmed the incident to The Associated Press, but did not release what the picture was of, only describing it as “vile and vicious.”
The team then left the banquet and withdrew from the tournament, with Commissioner Mike Hall calling the incident "unfortunate" in a Wednesday interview.
“It’s just a very unfortunate thing," he said. "We wish it hadn’t happened."
An hour from Birmingham, Talladega College was founded by emancipated slaves in 1865 after the end of the Civil War. The tournament the women's volleyball team was attending included other small colleges from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Talladega College released its own statement in support of the players' actions, with university president, Gregory J. Vincent, saying: "Our student-athletes' psychological and mental health are essential to academic development. Collegiate athletic participation is a co-curricular experience that is also important in the transformational learning experience of our students. These types of occurrences are unacceptable. We are entrusted by families, the Board of Trustees, and the State of Alabama to protect you as students of the institution."
\u201cTalladega College Supports Women's Volleyball Team https://t.co/5keBUlNrDr\u201d— Talladega College Athletics (@Talladega College Athletics) 1668123886
Hall added that the conference, which consists of 11 colleges, is still investigating. The tournament has since released its own statement.
“The SSAC will not condone this type of behavior. We are very supportive of all of our student-athletes, coaches and staff from our 11 institutions," it read. "We sincerely regret that this occurrence happened."
Still, the Talladega statement contests that the players walked out due to the inaction of the officials overseeing the tournament.
"The Talladega College women's volleyball team walked out of the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Banquet in protest due to what the institution believes to be a lack of action taken around racial abuse," it reads. "Our student-athletes were recipients of cyber racial abuse. The volleyball team's decision to walk out of the banquet, and ultimately walk away from participating in the remaining tournament, is an extension of the history of which they are a part."
The incident follows a similar occurrence at a Duke volleyball game in August where players reported racist heckling, prompting a response from Lebron James. Several other instances of racial abuse have been reported at universities in the months since.
Talladega's statement concluded: “We commend the women’s volleyball team. We celebrate them for their bravery. We honor them for their commitment to the founding principles of Talladega College as well as the tenants of diversity, equity, and inclusion."