On April 5 the intersection of race and sport made its way into the headlines again as NYU’s University Athletic Association rival Brandeis University announced that men’s head basketball coach Brian Meehan had been fired following an investigation into complaints against him over racial discrimination.
In anonymous interviews conducted by the sports news website Deadspin, three current and former Brandeis players claimed that Meehan’s racist and abusive behavior had been known by the university for five years prior to his termination and said that players’ complaints were disregarded by Brandeis Athletic Director Lynne Dempsey.
The players said that the majority of the complaints involved racial discrimination by Meehan, particularly against black players.
In their interviews, players alleged that the coach asked a trio of black players to depict the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys, told a black player on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that being white must be a “dream come true” and also verbally threatened a player from Africa by saying, “I’ll ship you back to Africa,” and later commented on the same player, “I don’t want to sit next to him because I’ll get Ebola.”
Additionally, players mentioned Meehan had a tradition of unexpectedly cutting black players from the team. One player who had been suddenly cut after making the roster told Deadspin that Meehan and Dempsey refused his request for a meeting to discuss what he described as “unfair and discriminatory treatment.”
Having reached a breaking point in May 2017, the players directly brought their complaints to the university’s Human Resources department which led to a six month investigation on the matter. Once completed in November 2017, players claimed that the results of the investigation were not disclosed and Meehan went on to coach the 2017-2018 season.
Following Brandeis’ season, a new complaint against Meehan resulted in the coach being placed on leave and later fired following what Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz described as a “thorough examination and review of the prior incidents” in a letter addressed to the Brandeis community.
In addition to the letter, Liebowitz hosted a town hall meeting on April 11 where he discussed racial discrimination and transparency at the university with students, staff and alumni and announced the university’s decision to review the rules by which they handle such issues.
The Brandeis Hoot reported that a group of students protested the culture of racism at the university the day after the town hall meeting. Although prompted by the university’s handling of the complaints against Meehan, the breadth of the protest went beyond Meehan and students voiced their discontent with the lack of diversity, unequal pay and racial profiling exhibited on campus.
Several members of the NYU sports community declined the opportunity to comment on the Brandeis incident.
A version of this article was published in the Monday, April 15 print edition. Contact Warner Radliff at [email protected]