UT has released a statement condemning images reportedly posted by students that show them wearing blackface and captioned with racist comments.
Angela Gosnell, Knoxville News Sentinel
KNOXVILLE — Protesting the University of Tennessee’s handling of a blackface controversy, 40 to 50 students dressed in black occupied seats behind UT’s goal Tuesday night at the men’s game against Mississippi State.
At the start of the game, they remained seated during the national anthem as other students, clad in orange and white, stood. Sitting or kneeling during the anthem has become a standard method of protesting racial injustice since 2016, following the example of football player Colin Kaepernick.
During the first half, the assembled students employed a variety of chants aimed at Tennessee.
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, racism has got to go,” they chanted.
“No justice, no peace, no racist, UT,” they chanted another time.
“What do we want? Expulsion! When do we want it? Now!” they yelled at halftime.
“Which side are you on, UT? Which side are you on?” was another chant.
The majority of the students left early in the second half, most of them holding their right first in the air as they walked up the aisle.
Vice Chancellor for Student Life Vince Carilli said Monday afternoon, at a meeting with students and Tennessee officials, that the university was still deciding how to discipline students who appeared in blackface in a Snapchat image last week. He said it was unlikely they would be expelled. In the image, two people appear to wear black skincare masks.
“We for racial equality boys,” the caption reads. “Bout to get this free college now that I’m black let’s gooooo #blacklivesmatter.” All four people visible in the image are believed to be UT students.
The university quickly condemned the photo, but at Monday’s meeting Carilli said they were unlikely to be expelled for “expressing their First Amendment rights.”