Oklahoma Reeling From Video
Boomer Sooner. Or should I just say Boom Sooner. The Sooner Nation is reeling from a viral video bomb – from Oklahoma University President David Boren, to the alumni base, to the student body, to head coach Bob Stoops and his players, and to potential football recruits…and all from a few seconds of racist idiocy from a bunch of stupid frat boys.
In case you haven’t heard (or seen), members of the OU chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) were recorded on what looks like a party bus clapping and singing a disturbing racist song. The 10-second video contains the unsettling words “There will never be a n*gger SAE – There will never be a n*gger SAE – You can hang ‘em from a tree, but it will never start with me/There will never be a n*gger SAE.”
If you haven’t seen the video (you must be the one) here it is – again be warned that the language is offensive.
The video was reportedly first posted on Sunday night by Unheard, an OU African American activist group devoted to fighting racism on campus which was launched in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Unheard received the video Sunday via anonymous text and immediately moved to “let our community and our university know that this behavior is not tolerated, that’s it’s unacceptable and it’s extremely, extremely offensive,” said the group’s co-director, Chelsea Davis. How they obtained it is still unclear, but the response was quick and large.
OU’s president took swift and significant action on Monday, and issued a statement saying the investigation into the video was continuing. “I have acted today to expel two students who were leaders in the singing of a racist chant,” Boren said in a tweet that linked to the statement. When the identities of others involved is confirmed, they will face “appropriate disciplinary action,” he said. “The house will be closed, and as far as I’m concerned, they won’t be back,” he said, adding that the university is exploring what actions it can take against individual fraternity members. The members had until midnight last night to get their belongings out of the house.
SAE’s national governing body moved quickly as well. “Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national headquarters has closed its Oklahoma Kappa chapter at the University of Oklahoma following the discovery of an inappropriate video,” read a statement posted to the fraternity’s Web site. “In addition, all of the members have been suspended, and those members who are responsible for the incident may have their membership privileges revoked permanently. We apologize for the unacceptable and racist behavior of the individuals in the video, and we are disgusted that any member would act in such a way. Furthermore, we are embarrassed by this video and offer our empathy not only to anyone outside the organization who is offended but also to our brothers who come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities.”
To bring the Norman story even closer to home here in Dallas the two main participants seen in the video have been identified as Highland Park grad Levi Pettit and Jesuit grad Parker Rice. They are believed to be the two already expelled from OU and their families have issued official apologies through family spokespeople as they regroup and try to figure out how best to get their lives back on track.
This is one of those situations that just turns my stomach, so regrettable on so many different levels with no redeeming qualities at all. Almost everyone is offended by what we have seen on the video, and rightly so. I don’t know if these kids (and they are kids) are David Duke starter kits or were just caught up in a stupid, incredibly insensitive and ridiculously regrettably moment (my guess is the latter), but coming from Highland Park and Jesuit they most likely had every opportunity laid out in front of them and the world was theirs for the taking. Now, after a more than likely alcohol fueled few moments, they’ve been kicked out of school, shamed themselves and their family name from Norman, Oklahoma to the oval office in the White House, and will have a dark and negative cloud follow them for the remainder of their oh-so-young lives. The words they sang were hurtful and truly disgusting – the punishment harsh and long lasting. They may get their academic careers back on track at another school, but stigmas are tough to shake.
One thing I’d bet the farm on is that the “song” was not just a spontaneous sing-a-long. I too was in a fraternity back in school and little ditties were drummed into our heads as pledges ad nauseum. Ours however were silly little tunes or rhymes that boasted the greatness of our frat or chapter (or ability to drink heavily), nothing along the lines of the hate filled message of what we have hear. But was I overly shocked when I saw the video and heard the words being chanted from a southern based fraternity* from a southern school on a party bus? I hate to say I wasn’t. Stupid rituals, hazing and rhetoric recital are passed down from class to class year after year in chapter rooms across the country for no other reason than “its tradition,” no matter how inappropriate or idiotic they may be.
Fraternities, like many private clubs, have a mentality when amongst only brothers that anything uttered inside the walls of their organization is privileged information which will never be heard by public ears (or seen by public eyes), and sometimes asinine things are said or done. In today’s world of smart phones and social media that obviously isn’t the case, just ask Donald Sterling.
Davis, the Unheard co-director also had this to say to CNN, “This mentality is not new to campus, and it’s not confined to one fraternity, but it’s the first time people have been caught on video. “Unfortunately, it took them getting caught on video camera for this to happen, but this is definitely not something that is brand-new. It’s not something that’s only seen within this one organization,” she said.
Since we’re a sports publication I guess I should bring this all back to how it relates to the OU athletic department. Stoops has already had four-star African American recruit Jean Delance decommit because of the incident. Guilt by association is almost never fair, and this case is no different, but the realty of it is perceived racism on the campus of OU is now a recruiting hurdle that Bob Stoops and head basketball coach Lon Kruger must face. Competing daily against the likes of A&M, UT, or OK State when it comes to attracting top African American recruits, this is an obstacle OU didn’t have to maneuver just two days ago. Only time will tell if it becomes a full fledged problem for the Sooners or if it passes quickly. There’s no doubt this won’t pass quickly for the kids who displayed a ridiculously high level of insensitivity and stupidity on that bus.
*Founded in Alabama in 1856, SAE had a strong connection to the Confederacy. “Of all existing national social fraternities today, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only national fraternity founded in the antebellum South,” according to the fraternity’s Web site “… The fraternity had fewer than 400 members when the Civil War began. Of those, 369 went to war for the Confederate States and seven for the Union Army.”