Slurs at water polo game spark calls for resolution

By Matt Won

Macalester’s Leonard Center was rocked Saturday by an alleged display of racist and homophobic conduct by Monmouth College players during the Men’s water polo tournament that Macalester’s coach deemed “disgusting.”The conduct was allegedly directed at Macalester’s Jeff Yamashita ’11 and Bobbi Gass ’10. Macalester’s cultural organizations have rallied around the students. Yamashita recounted the incident at an Asian Student Alliance meeting and will speak to the Black Liberation Affairs Committee on Sunday.

Yamashita said he is seeking three goals: a formal apology to himself and Macalester, changes in the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s policies on racial slurs and harassment, and an effective resolution in a Monmouth racial harassment case against their player.

At the start of the game, according to Gass, a player spoke to him, possibly in relation to the rainbow painted on his cheek saying ‘”Don’t let [Monmouth player] number 10 guard you. He’s gay.'”

Yamashita scored six of Macalester’s seven goals in the team’s eventual 8-7 loss. After Yamashita scored two goals in the second quarter, one Monmouth player “says to another teammate, ‘fucking chink,’ and the other guy smirked,” Yamashita’s teammate Nathan Young ’11 said. “I whispered to Jeff, ‘Did he really say that?’ We were both shocked.”

“My teammate and I looked at each other, we were both dumbfounded,” Yamashita said. “So I asked the player if he had really said that. He said ‘Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.'”

In the break between the third and fourth quarter, the Monmouth player’s conduct allegedly took an even uglier turn. “The guy calls me out and says ‘Hey, No. 10’ and then makes a slanting-eye gesture with his hands,” Yamashita said. Numerous spectators witnessed the gesture, many expressing disbelief at what they had seen.

“Everyone around me saw it too,” Angela Gutierrez ’11 said. “Everybody looked at each other for confirmation that that had really happened. Everybody was looking around, like, ‘Did he really just do that?'”

Macalester players restrained Yamashita from engaging the other player. “The refs spoke to me to calm me down,” Yamashita said, “and they would only let me back in if I reassured them that I wouldn’t retaliate.”

Instead, Yamashita retaliated with four more goals in the fourth quarter. “After I scored, the guy got pissed-that’s what triggered his saying racial slurs,” Yamashita said. “It made me more determined to lead my team to victory.”

Even after this conduct, Yamashita approached the player in the fourth quarter and offered to put the events behind them. “I told the guy, ‘I’m sorry, let’s put this under the bridge,'” Yamashita said. “He just told me to ‘fuck off.'”

The referees decided that the teams would not shake hands following the match.

The Macalester team condemned the Monmouth team’s handling of the event. “Every player that said something, everything I heard was derogatory” Young said. “They had no sportsmanship, no class, and they encouraged racism.”

“I tried to talk to the Monmouth coach right after the game,” Macalester coach Michael Kostinovski said, “but he was too offensive and he started to blame my players for being rude.”

“When they walked by afterwards some guy said to the ref loudly, so that we could hear, ‘Yeah, we’re all racists,’ in a really sarcastic tone,” team captain Seth Mcintire ’09 said.

The Monmouth player made an apology the next day that Yamashita said he considered “forced” and “insincere.”

Macalester Athletic Director Kim Chandler said she will contact Monmouth’s AD as soon as she interviews the Macalester students involved, and that Dean of Students Jim Hoppe has contacted his Monmouth counterpart.

“We’re now collecting information to frame our response,” swimming coach Bob Pearson said. Pearson witnessed the events at the scoring table and immediately notified Associate Athletic Director Vanessa L. Seljeskog. Pearson also stated that an incident report written by the head referee is en route via mail to the Collegiate Water Polo Association.

“It wasn’t like an inadvertent slander towards me,” Gass said, “It was offensive because it was a homosexual slander in general, and I was implicated in that statement.

“This kind of stuff doesn’t get looked at in sports-I feel this stuff happens in sports and not enough attention is paid to it.”

Chandler, Seljeskog, Hoppe and Dean of Multicultural Life Tommy Woon also expressed concern about the underreporting of this phenomenon.

“As somebody who was an athlete in high school and college,” Woon said, “I’m familiar with trash-talk. But there should be some responsibility in how to do that.”

Monmouth College’s administration has not responded publicly to the allegations, and has as yet taken no disciplinary action against the player. Some from Macalester are calling for strict action. Kostinovski said that if a Macalester player had behaved similarly, “I would suspend my player for the rest of the season.”

Others expressed that this conduct is not exclusive to Monmouth. Asked whether she had experienced racist behavior, Asian Student Alliance upper-class representative Monna Wong ’10 said, “At Mac? Yes. Everywhere? Yes,” and urged a diverse response. “The best thing to do,” she said, “is to publicize this and to create a conversation between the two schools and acknowledge that this happens at Mac as well. We need to have a conversation with other cultural orgs-they’re so fragmented that it’s often hard to get a collective response going.”

Chandler also stated that she has stepped in against misogyny perpetrated by Macalester spectators during games. “We have a commitment to creating positive spaces everywhere around campus,” Chandler said.

(Daniel Kerwin contributed reporting.)

The print version of this article and an earlier online edition incorrectly listed the college whose water polo team competed at Macalester as Monmouth University. The team was from Monmouth College.