Members of the Virginia Tech football team have been accused of acting disrespectfully at a campus sexual assault awareness event.
Players were required to attend a Take Back the Night event on March 26. The event was organized by a campus female activism group and featured sexual assault survivors speaking about their experiences as victims. Multiple attendees accused the players of infringing upon the "safe space" the event is intended to foster, according to The Roanoke Times.
Take Back the Night is a national organization that seeks "to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence."
Several attendees wrote letters to the student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, complaining about the players' behavior. The players arrived late, said they did not know why they were attending the event and spent much of the time looking at their phones, the letters said.
"[T]heir judgmental remarks made it very hard to feel safe," one wrote. "When survivors took the stage, there was nothing respectful in the way the football team took it, especially in reference to transgender survivors. I am deeply offended and horrified by the disrespectful nature that the players displayed."
Another person said some players "made snide, mocking comments."
The athletic department held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss the players' actions.
"I want to discourage the behavior that happened, but I don't want to discourage the intent," athletic director Whit Babcock said at the meeting, according to the Collegiate Times. "I was pleased with the initiative, I just was not pleased with the end result."
Babcock added that he thought the department "could have done a better job" preparing the players for the event.
"Coach Frank Beamer wanted to show support of the cause and the group, while also using the event as an opportunity to educate our players on one of the many diversity and inclusive events sponsored by Virginia Tech," associate director of athletics communications Jimmy Robertson told The Roanoke Times.
Robertson said all players were required to attend, unless the event conflicted with a class, and were required to wear team-issued sweatsuits. He estimated that there were 105 players in attendance.
- Dan Gartland