The Brown University Band announced in a letter posted to its Facebook account last week that it will not be playing at women’s basketball home games for the remainder of the 2019-2020 season, citing allegations circulating about the conduct of the team's head coach, Sarah Behn.
As reported by The Brown Daily Herald, band president Elizabeth Rogan and vice president Charlie Gagnon made the decision along with the four other members of the band’s executive board. Before the announcement, the band had planned to perform at two upcoming home matchups this spring.
“We decided to not continue to attend games because we felt like the things we were hearing about the women’s basketball team would make continuing to attend those games a negative statement, and one that was contrary to the band’s values,” Gagnon said. Rogan added that the band “wholeheartedly [supports] the female athletes on the women’s basketball team. Our priority is supporting them, but we did not feel like we could do that in the most productive way by continuing to attend their games.”
Seven former players on the women’s basketball team have alleged that Behn repeatedly made remarks about players’ weights, used language that they described as vulgar and singled out players for criticism, The Herald reported. Earlier this month, various posts on Dear Blueno — a student-run Facebook page that solicits and posts anonymous submissions — referenced concerns surrounding Behn’s leadership.
“We can’t say that things online didn’t influence our decision,” said Gagnon, who stressed that the band “also received concerns from [band] members.”
“In my opinion, I have never made a player feel bad about her appearance or body type,” Behn wrote in a statement to The Herald. “My assistant coaches and I have always used the word ‘fitness’ to describe goals and motivate all our athletes to train to achieve their best level of fitness so they can compete better.
“I have never and would never single out a player by using profanities at her or blame an individual for team results. I have worked hard to bring positive energy and to use positive language around our players every single day.”
Player complaints also focused on a "call-out" meeting in which players were encouraged to confront teammates about team dynamics and time management, a process that one player described as horrifying and one that reduced some team members to tears.
Three players said they independently approached a senior associate athletic director about Behn, and one player's father said that over a five-year period he submitted complaints to Brown athletic director Jack Hayes regarding Behn's conduct.
“When concerns are brought to our attention, we take them seriously, review them in detail and take appropriate actions as deemed necessary,” Hayes said. “Not reporting details back to students or parents does not mean Brown Athletics has not addressed a concern, if our review determined that action was necessary.”
In Behn’s six years coaching the team, she has compiled a 20-60 Ivy League record.
As for the band's boycott of her team's games, Behn offered in her email to The Herald that "a boycott of the women’s basketball games by the Brown Band only hurts our dedicated student-athletes who continue to represent Brown to the best of their abilities.”