UW-Eau Claire suspends 5 football players for racist Snapchat conversation with KKK image

Madison, USA - December 12, 2005: Frozen square at Winter Madison University of Wisconsin with students walking
Five football players at the Eau Claire campus of the University of Wisconsin have been suspended after racist Snapchats circulated. (Getty Images)

Five University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire football players were suspended Wednesday and are under investigation by the university for their involvement in a racist Snapchat conversation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Players sent KKK image on Snapchat

Screenshots of the Snapchat conversation between the players, who are not named by the university, circulated around the student body this week. The conversation referred to the first informational meeting of the campus’ Black Male Empowerment club, which was held Wednesday night.

It included a black-and-white photo of Ku Klux Klan members burning a cross, per the report. The message, via the Journal Sentinel:

"For all who can't make the BME meeting, (name of student) and I are holding WME tonight at 7," the message reads — presumably playing off the acronym, replacing black with white.

Another message referred to one of the football players as "the grand wizard."

Chancellor Jim Schmidt told WEAU-TV the players were immediately suspended from the football team and “then pending the rest of the investigation, [the athletic director] will determine their future, as to whether or not they will remain on the football team.”

Campus Black Male Empowerment club

BME was founded in 2017 by Dennis Beale, a UW-Eau Claire employee, per the Journal Sentinel, after his close friend died in a shooting. Beale posted this message on Facebook on Tuesday:

As the Founder of Black Male Empowerment, I am appalled about what I have seen on social media. This group was designed to help change the perception of African American Males on a predominantly white campus. Along with exemplifying the black excellence that these young men display on a daily basis. It is very disturbing to see the backlash we get from the people in our own backyard. I just hope justice is served to those involved in this matter!! Please continue to support the BME movement!! #changinglivesdaily #imjustbeingme

It is designed to help African-American men succeed in college and combat stereotypes about them.

‘Disgusted’ chancellor vows quick investigation

Schmidt posted Tuesday night on Twitter about the messages, saying he has the Dean of Students Office investigating. He told the Journal Sentinel he anticipates it to be concluded quickly and the students could face a range of options when it comes to discipline that he declined to detail.

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He told the Journal Sentinel he was “thoroughly disgusted, disappointed and angered.”

"These symbols and pictures and comments harken back to some of the darkest days in our country's history," Schmidt said.

A Native American student at the university experienced a racist message written on her door, per the Journal Sentinel, and last spring a racist, homophobic Snapchat circulated around sister campus UW-Oshkosh.

"We're not naive enough to think that we're going to wipe out racism on our campus, because we are a reflection of society," Schmidt said, via the Journal. "I would hope through the efforts of so many on our campus, that we could be a better reflection of society."

Fans boycott at Syracuse due to racism

Universities have increasingly been dealing with racism on their campuses. In 2017, a hate crime at Maryland resulted in a plunge in enrollment and incidents have occurred at American University, Missouri and Florida, among many others.

This week security tightened at Syracuse University, where a white supremacist manifesto was reportedly electronically AirDropped to students in the library around 1 a.m. The Daily Orange reported the 74-page document included neo-Nazi symbols and anti-immigrant sentiments and was written by the perpetrator of the March Christchurch mosque shootings. There have been 11 reported hate crimes in a 12-day span.

Otto’s Army, the university’s official fan club, has boycotted two Syracuse men’s basketball games while joining a sit-in on campus.

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