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Illinois State can’t ‘verify the use of a racial slur’ by fan

Interviewed 47 people, reviewed hours of footage

Illinois State University officials could not “verify the use of a racial slur” by a basketball fan, the school announced Monday.

It came after the school interviewed 47 people and reviewed game footage from various sources, according to a media statement sent to The College Fix and comments provided to other outlets.

The investigation followed allegations an ISU fan had shouted racial slurs at a Norfolk State University basketball player during a game on December 9, 2023.

Review of all available video and audio recordings [were included in the investigation], along with the lead official’s game report, game operations plan, and seating diagrams,” the university told The Fix

NSU is a historically black university in Virginia. Coach Robert Jones was quick to claim his player, Jamarii Thomas, heard racist slurs. The racism allegedly prompted Thomas to get in a shouting match with a fan.

“I’m not letting anybody call my players a racial slur . Those are my kids and I will fight for them,” Jones wrote on X. “We have come too far in society to be called the N word at college basketball game.”

He also criticized ISU coach Ryan Pedon for not doing enough. Jones ignored calls from Pedon after the game. Both shouted at each other after the alleged altercation, though Pedon later said he didn’t understand the full situation.

“Jones also rebuffed any potential apology from ISU coach Ryan Pedon, saying he has no interest in talking with Pedon,” WGLT reported at the time.

But there’s no proof the slur happened.

“While the investigation did not verify the use of a racial slur, Illinois State remains committed to promoting an open and inclusive campus community where all people feel welcomed, valued, and respected,” according to a statement shared with The Fix. “It is our goal as a university to move forward with a renewed effort to promote and encourage practices on our campus that help us demonstrate that commitment.”

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This is not the only racial slur at an athletics competition to fall apart in recent years. Guilford College officials determined there was no evidence that its fans shouted slurs during a women’s soccer game against Virginia State University, also an HBCU, as reported by The Fix last September.

And Pennsylvania State University’s coach showed rare timidity when asked about allegations the school’s fans had hurled racial slurs during a basketball game against Rutgers University.

“If anything did happen — we’re checking into everything — but if anything did happen, that’s something that is completely unacceptable,” head coach Micah Shrewsberry, now at the University of Notre Dame, said at the time. A subsequent investigation found no proof of racial slurs by the “Legion of Blue.”

It shouldn’t be confused with the debunked claim by Duke University volleyball player Rachel Richardson that a fan shouted racial slurs at her during a 2022 game against Brigham Young University. The Utah Church of Latter Day Saints university later had to walk back its claim after conservative students debunked the claim. BYU also apologized to a developmentally disabled fan it barred from future events on the false claim he had shouted racial slurs.

MORE: There were 19 campus hate crime hoaxes in 2023

IMAGE: Robert Jones/X

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.