ISU investigation finds no racial slur during Horton Field House game

The investigation included 47 statements. (Photo courtesy: WJBC/File)


NORMAL – Illinois State University Ethics Office has concluded its investigation into a report of a racial slur used at the Dec. 9 men’s basketball game against Norfolk State.

Chris Coplan, director of media relations and strategic communications at ISU, said the investigation was closed after it was elevated beyond the athletics department to the ethics office for evaluation.

The ethics office reviewed all video and audio as well as the lead official’s game report, the game operations plan, and seating diagrams.

It also identified more than 50 individuals in the general vicinity of the alleged incident including game officials, media, Norfolk State student-athletes, ISU student-athletes, ISU staff, and spectators.

There were statements from 47 individuals on the matter, and Norfolk State declined to participate, said Coplan.

Read the statement from the ethics office here:

“While the investigation did not verify the use of a racial slur, Illinois State remains committed to promoting an open and inclusive campus community where all people feel welcomed, valued, and respected. It is our goal as a university to move forward with a renewed effort to promote and encourage practices on our campus that help us demonstrate that commitment, including those outlined in Illinois State’s Event Code of Conduct, the Athletics Code of Sportsmanship, and the Missouri Valley Conference Sportsmanship Standards of Conduct.”

Head men’s basketball coach Ryan Pedon issued an apology on Dec. 10 regarding the incident that escalated into him and Norfolk State head coach Robert Jones getting into a heated argument.

The incident began when an ISU fan allegedly yelled a racial slur at a Norfolk State player. This led to Jones and Pedon getting into a heated argument, which eventually cleared both benches. Both coaches were issued technical fouls and fans were ejected.

In his statement, Pedon said he “absolutely did not hear what [Jones] was saying to me. Had I heard [him], my response would have been completely different. This was a misunderstanding in which I reacted to him without understanding the situation, and I own that mistake 100%.”

The university also issued its own apology: “The use of racial slurs and other offensive language targeting people for their identity is abhorrent and is not tolerated by Illinois State University. Among Illinois State’s core values are respect for others, diversity, and inclusion,” read Illinois State’s statement. “Illinois State has moved swiftly to investigate the report and will respond appropriately. Illinois State University and Redbird Athletics extend sincere apologies to Norfolk State University, its student-athletes, and its athletics staff for the deep upset caused, and university leaders have personally reached out to colleagues at Norfolk State.”

The following statement is from Norfolk State University President Javaune Adams-Gaston, Ph.D., and NSU Director of Athletics Melody Webb:

Norfolk State University stands firmly against racism and discrimination in any form. We are fully committed to fostering an environment where all individuals, regardless of their background, feel valued, respected, and included.

The external investigation into this matter was very important, and we are appreciative of the efforts made by Illinois State University.

It is disheartening to see instances of racism tarnishing the spirit of fair play and camaraderie that sports are meant to embody.

We condemn any actions that undermine the dignity and humanity of our student-athletes. We want to reiterate our dedication to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment. We stand with our student-athletes, Coach Robert Jones, and staff who traveled with the team. We recognize and understand the difficulty our players experienced, and that they persevered.

Let us use this moment to recommit ourselves to fostering a culture of respect, understanding, and unity. We encourage open dialogue, education, and collaboration to address the root causes of such incidents and work towards a future where incidents of racism are eradicated from our campuses and beyond.

Norfolk State went on to win the game 64-58.

WMBD News can be reached at [email protected].


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