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Football: UL president Savoie addresses Trump controversies

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Nov. 25, 2016

Two weeks after video showing University of Louisiana at Lafayette football players dancing and profanely singing to an anti-Donald Trump rap song in their locker room, UL president Joseph Savoie addressed it and other national election-related incidents at the school.

Savoie spoke Tuesday, when asked about the matter as he also discussed the unrelated resignation of Ragin’ Cajuns athletic director Scott Farmer.

“Optics were not good,” Savoie said of the video, which went viral via social and traditional avenues and brought negative national attention to the university.

“I think that particular video was one event,” he added. “We had others on campus, which caused concern for various groups for various reasons.”

Savoie said he has “been spending a lot of time the last couple weeks meeting with student groups of various sorts,” and that on Monday afternoon and evening he met with “probably several hundred students in groups of 10 or 15, 20.”

“There are multiple perspectives to the events which occurred,” the UL president said.

“There are sincere feelings of concern and threat among various groups, and, you know, universities are places where thoughts and speech and conversation should be able to be discussed and considered, and what is takes is respect.”

Graffiti including comments saying “F— your safe space” and “Build a wall” was seen written in chalk on campus one day after Election Day.

The video showed some Cajun players, at least four of whom were disciplined but not suspended, dancing and singing – and in some cases making obscene hand gestures – as the protest song FDT (F— Donald Trump) by rap artists YG and Nipsey Hussle blared on the background.

Multiple players were shown videoing the scene with their cell phones, at least one of whom was naked.

Others are known to be upset by what they witnessed.

The video was filmed on the same day Trump was elected President of the United States.

Some UL boosters threatened to pull their financial support of the program as a result of both the video and reaction to it by head coach Mark Hudspeth, who suggested shortly after a road win at Georgia Southern that those who criticized the players but voted for Trump were hypocrites.

Hudspeth later said he regretted his ‘hypocritical’ suggestion, but explained he was being protective of players who were being labeled as “thugs” by at least one program booster.

“Obviously the hand gestures and the lewd language were very disappointing, especially toward one of the candidates," Hudspeth said initially.

“But I will say this: It’s also disappointing that so many people have vilified a few 19-year-olds making some immature decisions, and then they were the same ones that voted for someone that has done much worse by grabbing a female in the private areas for the office of the (President of the) United States of America.”

A few days later the coach made an emotional apology and announced several repercussions, including no more locker-room videos by players, no more music from players’ phones being piped into common areas and 1,000 hours of community service by players and coaches at local schools and youth organizations in the form of discussions about lessons learned.

In a subsequent open letter addressed to Hudspeth, Savoie and the school’s faculty and staff, UL’s chapter of the NAACP and other student organizations – Black Male Leadership Association, Black Woman Leadership Association, Students for the Advancement of Women, African Student Association, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Black Student Union – called for university leads to “remain unbiased and consistent” in the issuing of disciplinary action.

The letter reminded the school of its pledge to celebrate student diversity, and questioned inconsistencies in university response to the pro-Trump graffiti compared to the anti-Trump song video.

“Dealing with these groups,” Savoie said, “someone said, ‘Well, we need to get unity back.’

“I said, ‘I’m not sure we’re gonna have unity, but we can at least have respect and listen to one another’s opinions and talk through issues and treat people as individuals and not stereotypes.’ ”