Response to White’s Letter

ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University this weekend voiced its support of AU Eagles team members and Women’s Basketball coach Kari Pickens, who posted a video on social media decrying an online racist message sent privately to one of her players following the team’s GLIAC tournament quarter-final victory over Northwood University. 

Shortly after the game, Pickens said, the player – a female student of color – received a message through a personal social media account saying “Ashland is finally starting to win games without you …” followed by a racial slur.

“No person should ever have to experience that,” an emotional Pickens, an AU alumna in her third year as head coach, said in the video. “We have to do more, because black lives do matter.”

The sender of the message had no affiliation with Ashland University, has never been on the campus, but is believed to have known the player from her success at a high school in the region. The team member, Pickens said, is “kind and smart and funny and forgiving and full of life.”

In the video, Pickens said she was very angry, but decided to pray and encourage anyone who saw her video join her: “To the individual with hate in his heart, God’s love is bigger than your hate. … I will pray for you. Our team will pray for you. And I have no doubt the young lady that you self-righteously deemed unworthy will pray for you, because this team will choose love.”

The player who endured these comments has asked that no action be taken against the author, and Coach Pickens received immediate and resounding support from across the Ashland University and athletic community for her sensitive and compassionate response in support of her team member. 

“We thank Coach Pickens for her extraordinary response to this written attack against one of our student athletes. It is sickening and sad to think that some in our community have been raised in darkness and continue to propagate the discrimination they have learned and embraced,” said AU President Dr. Carlos Campo. “No student at Ashland University should have to endure such abuse. There is no place for these sentiments in our community.” 

“There are no words of comfort that can even form at this moment because this cuts me at my very core as a Black woman who is also a professor at this University,” said Dr. Judy Alston, chair of the Department of Leadership Studies and acting director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “However, prayer does work and so does education and we have much work to do.”

Ashland University continues to reject and abhor the racial hatred expressed to our student athlete, and we stand with her in support and solidarity against the forces of ignorance that continue to infect some members of our society.  We affirm that we not only support our African American students, but we celebrate them as an integral part of our campus community. While we cannot control the ignorant comments that may come to our students via social media, we will support them in every way to ensure they continue to feel safe and welcomed as part of our Ashland University family. Finally, we want to emphasize that the person who wrote the message is not welcome on our campus for athletic events or any other purpose.