Laney Fox, a former basketball player at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina, claims she was cut from the team along with six other players for speaking out against racist remarks allegedly made by other players and members of the coaching staff.
According to Charlotte NBC affiliate WCNC, Fox participated along with other teammates in Black Lives Matter demonstrations and spearheaded conversations with other members of the team to discuss issues of race in the wake of the death of George Floyd last year.
WCNC spoke to several players who wished to remain anonymous, who alleged that some teammates were dismissive of racism as an issue, or who made racist statements.
Fox said that initially, coaches were supportive of her, telling her they were proud of the effort she was making to help her Black teammates. That initial support contributed to Fox’s surprise when in a March 25 meeting she was cut from the team for lack of acceptance among her teammates.
A recording of the exchange, which took place over Zoom, includes the voices of head coach Grahm Smith, coach Audrey Timmerman and senior athletic director Aaron Brock.
In the 20-minute recording, a person who Fox identifies as Smith can be heard saying, “People don’t want to be educated on things they don’t want to be educated on. Talent standpoint, once again it has nothing to do with talent. What it has to do with is, it has to do with a culture standpoint and a buy-in standpoint. I've had numerous players come and say you're almost a distraction. What it comes down to Laney, is that, it's not the right fit for our program."
University president Dr. Fred Whitt responded to the allegations in a letter, calling Fox’s version of events “false.”
“Although we have no indication to suggest that there is any racism or any undertone of racism within the women’s basketball program, Lenoir-Rhyne takes any such claim extremely seriously. I am initiating an internal review of the matter,” Whitt’s letter read in part.