Star Oklahoma Athlete Tyler Williams is at the center of a firestorm after University of Arkansas Fort Smith Coach Jim Boone dropped the basketball star from his tea after Williams refused to cut his dreads.
According to The Oklahoman, Williams was set to finish his senior year at UAFS, but the school switched up their coaching staff last year adding Boone to the roster, which according to Williams is when his hair became an issue. Upset with the treatment, Williams decided to approach his coach regarding the unfavorable treatment, which included derogatory remarks about his hair, moving the student’s locker away from his team and blatantly asking the student to dropoff the team.
Williams was so upset that he decided to record the meeting with his coach in an attempt to help other students from having to face the same discrimination he did.
In the audio, the student shared with the publication, Williams is heard addressing the issue with his hair calling out Boone for reportedly telling the student that although he wasn’t kicking him out of school that he didn’t “belong” on his team and that moving forward students with braids and dreads would not be recruited to play on his team.
“To kick someone off the team just because of their hair, that’s not right,” Tyler Williams said. “I just felt disrespected and devalued after he told me that.”
Although Williams was hurt and disappointed, it wasn’t until the letter that the Williams’ family sent to Boone and the university in response to the decision to remove Tyler from the team was published on Twitter that Williams felt the need to expose the incident.
“I didn’t know the letter had got out, but I’m glad it’s out and people are seeing my story,” Williams continued. “It shouldn’t be tolerated.”
In the letter, Mr. and Mrs. Williams complained about a meeting Boone had had with their son in which Boone said he didn’t like Tyler’s dreads and would not recruit others with similar hair. The parents subsequently met with the coach on Aug. 16 before practice for the new season started and, according to their note, were initially told he wouldn’t make Tyler Williams cut his hair because he was a senior. But he reportedly made clear he didn’t like it. When the Williams said there’d been a court ruling in California in support of ‘natural’ hair, Boone reportedly responded: “I don’t have to deal with that. I don’t live in California.” The Williamses said Boone ultimately grew angry and dismissed their son from the team.
Despite their efforts and Tyler’s superb scholastic record, Williams was UAFS’s leading returning scorer (12.9 ppg) and the Heartland Conference’s leader in free throw percentage (88 percent) and was selected to represent the university at the NCAA Leadership Development Conference. He was also a member of the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and carried a 3.4 GPA in organizational leadership, the school upheld the decision and on Aug. 25, Tyler Williams announced on Twitter he was transferring to a school in Oklahoma.
I will be transferring from the University of Arkansas Fort-Smith due to undisclosed reasons and I will be attending Southern Nazarene University for the 2019-2020 season🏀‼️ #ImNext #BoltsUp⚡️ pic.twitter.com/I6cBq7l3MZ
— Ty🙏🏽 (@_Ty_Williams1) August 26, 2019
Despite the backlash from the incident and the release of the audio from the meeting, Boone is still the head coach at UAFS causing many students and community members alike to give the administration a huge side-eye with students calling for games to be boycotted until the coach is terminated.
As a student of UAFS, I will not be attending any UAFS basketball games while coach Jim Boone still holds his position. If discrimination like this because of someone’s natural HAIRSTYLE doesn’t infuriate you, then there’s a problem. I encourage students from UAFS to speak up. pic.twitter.com/D2gpWJYRAz
— Julia ♡ (@JxliaDxver) September 1, 2019
After the firestorm, the university released a statement on Tuesday, revealing that they received the letter and that an investigation is underway before stating that discrimination is not tolerated on campus.
UAFS chancellor Terisa Riley issued a statement to the school’s students, faculty and staff via email acknowledging that an investigation was underway. In the statement, Riley said that the school’s Department of Human Resources has yet to issue a final report, thus she could not comment on the specifics of the investigation.
“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.”
As of press time, Boone is still actively coaching the men’s basketball team and has not been placed on any type of leave.
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