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."
Late Tuesday night, an attorney representing Boone issued the following statement to 5NEWS:
Coach Boone didn’t punish or mistreat Tyler Williams over the length or style of his hair. In fact, he never made Tyler cut or change his hairstyle. Photos of Tyler’s hair over the past year show that his hairstyle never changed.
Coach Boone was around Tyler all summer and even had him come to his home for dinner. What’s more, contemporaneous records reflect the Coach commenting on Tyler’s appearance by saying he looked “great.”
Coach Boone’s attitude about player’s hair styles is admittedly old-school, but it’s not discriminatory. He’d feel the same way if a young Larry Bird was playing for UA-Fort Smith. That said, he’s going to make it abundantly clear to everyone concerned that he recruits players based on their talent and character. Coach Boone also wants to make clear that, despite what he thinks about personal grooming standards for student-athletes, he doesn’t believe (and never has) that a player’s hairstyle, tattoo sleeves, or body piercings are indicative of their character or their potential to become the next Larry Bird or LeBron James.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen similar accusations made against a head coach by a student-athlete whose real motive is to create grounds for a waiver from the NCAA. In this case, we have a student-athlete who has already used the “one-time transfer without penalty” exception to avoid sitting out a year following a transfer from one school to another. Therefore, the only way he’ll be able to play basketball next season is to create a narrative that might cause the NCAA to believe that he transferred because he was somehow mistreated by his former school’s coaching staff.
Tyler wasn’t mistreated, and the issue about his hair had nothing to do with his decision to leave UA-Fort Smith. To the contrary, Tyler Williams transferred to a school in Oklahoma because Coach Boone had recruited some players who were more talented. It was fairly obvious to everyone - including Tyler - that he probably wasn’t going to get much time on the court next season if he stayed at UA-Fort Smith. This happens all the time in college sports, and that’s the real reason behind Tyler’s decision to leave UA-Fort Smith.
What the Williams’ are doing now appears to be a shot from half court in an effort to create grounds for a waiver so that Tyler will be able to play next season. Unfortunately, this scenario occurs all too often in college sports when players and their parents realize that’s the only route available to seek a waiver of the NCAA’s “year in residence” requirement following a transfer. For that reason, this familiar scenario of student-athletes suddenly accusing their former coach of misconduct as soon as they need a waiver has been the subject of countless sports news stories in recent months. They’d be easy for you to find.
Mars Law Firm
UAFS basketball players have released a joint statement concerning their coach and allegations of racism Williams has made about him.
The allegations that former player Tyler Williams has made against Jim Boone are completely false and hold no validity. The way he is being portrayed is an absolute injustice to his name and character and to the values he holds. Each and every team member supports our coach and desires to play for Coach Boone and his staff.