When Kansas State University guard Angel Rodriguez stepped up to the free throw line last Thursday, he was greeted by members of the University of Southern Mississippi pep band, who began asking the Puerto Rico native, “Where’s your green card?”
In the days that followed the NCAA tournament game, Southern Miss issued an apology to Rodriguez and five band members saw their scholarships revoked, USA TODAY reported Tuesday.
In Massachusetts, Ryan Hurley called the incident “shameful.”
“We are all college students, and college students do have lapses in judgment,” said the fifth-year trombone, a member of the University of Massachusetts hoop band. “No band is completely guilt-free of this sort of action, but (Southern Miss) represents the worst I have seen. Every band in this country should take a look at itself and make sure that all future cheers are appropriate.”
Hurley acknowledged – based on video of the incident – that only a few members of the band participated in the chant. He said that occasionally UMass band members become caught up in the game and attempt to start “inappropriate cheers.”
“Instead of joining the jeer, it’s more likely that the rest of the band will ignore it,” he said, adding that older players are responsible for stopping those types of chants. “(The) worst-case scenario would involve the student section joining in on the inappropriate cheer. If it gets to them, it’s gone, and there is nothing the band could do to stop it at that point.”
Nina Khosrowsalafi, a 21-year-old band manager for the Harvard University Band, also emphasized a need for active leadership in stopping offensive cheers.
“Members of the Southern Miss band may have gotten caught up in the revelry and intensity that comes with this level of athleticism and rivalry and probably should’ve known better,” she said. “But the staff of the band should have recognized their audience and the impact of their presence at the game … There is obviously a difference between light-hearted taunting and blatantly insulting an individual to make a point.”
The Southern Miss “green card” chant – and its aftermath – has drawn national attention to the school’s pep band, as well as the university’s Pride of Mississippi Marching Band, a 300-person band who plays halftime shows during fall football games.
But Julie Gore, an 18-year-old piccolo player in the Pride of Mississippi, believes the incident paints an unfair picture of her school and marching band.
“Many people are judging the university on the actions of a few kids in a pep band,” she said. “I agree that the actions reflect poorly on the individuals but it in no way reflects the other students.”
“When people reference the Pride when discussing the incident it really bothers me because the pep band is in no way representative of the Pride,” Gore added. “The basketball pep band does contain members from the Pride but it … is a small group of musicians from the university who don’t practice and just perform cheers at basketball games.”
Gore said that during fall football games, her band’s director constantly reminds students that they represent not only the Pride, but the university as a whole.
It’s a concept that Hurley said the UMass band will keep in mind when they travel next week with the Minutemen to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four.
“We have one guiding rule here at UMass,” he said. “When our track jackets are on – embroidered with the UMass athletic logo – we represent our school, and we do our best not to abuse that power.”
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