The Virginia Commonwealth University athletic department issued an apology Wednesday after the University of Rhode Island's associate athletics director Shane Donaldson said he wasn't able to do a radio broadcast for the Tuesday night basketball game between the schools due to VCU's radio crew accommodations in the Siegel Center.
As reported by CBS affiliate WTVR in Richmond, Donaldson posted a picture to his Twitter that showed a stepladder next to a railing surrounding the call box area for radio.
"Not ideal for anyone. Certainly not for someone with cerebral palsy," the tweet said.
"I knew right away looking at it, it's not something I would have been able to do," Donaldson told WTVR. "To ask you to climb a ladder and hop a fence...it's just not something I would do, wasn't willing to even try. It would have been a disaster for me."
Donaldson said VCU offered to make other arrangements for him, but it appeared the school didn't have an established plan in place to do so. With little time before tipoff to relocate, play-by-play announcer Stone Freeman wound up working the game alone.
"When when they offered to make other arrangements, they didn't have a specific plan," he said. "It was kind of like they were looking over the arena. And saying, we'll try to figure out somewhere else to put you."
He went on to say that fixing the problem for him, in the moment, was not enough.
"The fact that this is a setup that they had in the first place is really egregious. The lack of thought that was involved in that decision is kind of appalling," Donaldson said. "And if I just accept that they fix something for me, in the moment, then I'm not doing anything to make it better for the next person."
According to WTVR, the radio positions were permanently moved to the new location before the 2021-22 season and replaced with more floor seating for fans. The Atlantic 10 Conference does not have any specific requirements about where the radio booths are, just that they are provided.
VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin issued the following statement to WTVR sports director Lane Casadonte:
“We are aware of the incident involving Rhode Island’s radio team prior to Tuesday’s men’s basketball game. Once made aware of the situation, our facilities staff offered accommodations immediately, which the Rhode Island radio team chose not to accept. We pride ourselves in delivering a first-class product across the board, and we did not meet those expectations.
"I spoke with Shane Donaldson this morning, as well as Rhode Island’s Director of Athletics, Thorr Bjorn. In both open and honest conversations, I apologized on behalf of VCU Athletics for causing undue emotional harm. I have a great deal of respect for the entire Rhode Island Department of Athletics and for the work that Shane does.
"Access and inclusion are central to our values, and we fell short last night. VCU Athletics has done extensive work throughout the last 10 years, and especially in the last 18 months since we restarted our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, to foster an environment of inclusion and belonging. We clearly have work still to do.
"We will continue working with the University’s ADA office to evaluate and rectify the situation immediately.”
Donaldson said he appreciated McLaughlin's personal apology Wednesday morning, but he hoped the conversation would lead to change for future radio broadcasters in the Siegel Center.
"I'm aware of my limitations, I deal with them on a daily basis. I'm aware of what I've had to work through my entire life," said Donaldson. "Last night was one of the first times in my life that I've experienced that feeling of being subhuman."