Ex-GSU Soccer Player Apologizes for Racial Slur

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Copyright 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


She'djustpassedherspring fitness exam in preparation for what she thought would be a good soccer season at Georgia State University.

The freshman pulled out her phone, snapped a photo with a friend and posted the good news on a private Finsta account--a secret version of Instagram -- with a caption that included a racial slur.

Within a week, that excitement crumbled.

Natalia Martinez ended up withdrawing from the university amid death threats over the controversial post.

In an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday, Martinez said she isn't a racist and the word was "used out of excitement and not toward anyone, and taken out of context. And for that I'm sorry."

The apology comes a week after she withdrew from school following social media backlash, including from fellow students who urged school officials to expel her.

"The truth is, I could give you excuses, and I could give you a story, but what you need to know is what's in my heart," Martinez said.

Her voice unwavering and firm in her apology, Martinez repeatedly emphasized she was sorry, that the word was horrible and that she didn't want to make excuses for using a word with a weighted history.

She has since deleted all of her social accounts and is living with her family in south Florida.

Martinez said she didn't expect the post to go viral: "I was honestly in complete shock. I couldn't believe what washappening.Iwasaccused of (being) something that I'm not."

The controversy came to light when Martinez's soccer coach received an email with the photo containing the caption.

"I was called into coach's office and was shown the post that was emailed to him," Martinez said. "I was suspended immediately. As soon as it blew up (on social media), I decided to take matters into my own hands and withdrew."

Martinez made her decision before she could meet with GSU administrators, who were notified of the post Jan. 19.

The school's athletic department encourages student-athletes to use social media in "constructive and positive ways," but they are urged to "remember that he or she serves as representatives of GSU and, as such, the student-athlete's sites are reflective of his or her team, coach, and University."

It's a statement Martinez said she remembers officials echoing when she signed her contract with the school.

The policy also states student-athletes are subject to discipline for social media posts that include derogatory or defamatory language.

Martinez's attorney said his client is paying the ultimate price for her words.

"I don't think there's anything that has been done to Natalia than that punishment that she has inflicted on herself," he said, referring to the withdrawal. "As for what the future holds, she's taking it day-by-day."

Martinez is hardly the first student-athlete to come under fire for racially insensitive comments shared on social media.

Another example was last week when Appalachian State men's tennis player Spencer Brown, who is white, was suspended from the program indefinitely after rival North Carolina A&T State player John Wilson tweeted that Brown made racist comments following a match.

"During our match (Sunday), along with other racist comments, Spencer told me, 'At least I know my

dad,'"Wilson said in the tweet. "Their

coach responded by saying, '... we have a black guy on our team.'"

Appalachian State apologized for the tweet, but Wilson, who is black, said it had not apologized to him directly.

Martinez's mother, Daniela, said she was upset with her daughter for writing the racial slur, but didn't expect for her family to get attacked.

"I was confused at first, very confused," she said. "I didn't understand the true magnitude until I started seeing social media blow up."

Daniela Martinez, who said she is Latina, said what upset her most was that she and her husband don't use such language in their home: "We don't speak that way, which is why my husband and I were so angry with (Natalia)," she said.

But one possible factor for why Daniela Martinez thinks her daughter used the word: "Today's millennials use this term as a new form of slang."

She also pointed out that the post was "conveniently cropped" to hide the rest of Natalia's words about passing the fitness exam.

"There was absolutely no ill intent when that story was written," she said. "You couldn't see exactly what she wrote and what it was about it. That's just not who we are and what we're about. My parents were immigrants; we are minorities. I can't tell you that enough.

"I truly feel in my heart when these kids are talking his way, they really don't understand the magnitude of the meaning behind this word," she said, adding that the slur is heavily used in popular culture, including movies and music.

"I'm actually saddened that I didn't have the conversation with her earlier," the mother said. "Had I, this wouldn't have happened."

She said she can guarantee this: Her daughter will never say the word again.

"She's not a terrible monster," the mother said. "This is a life lesson she's going to take with her for the rest of her life."

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February 5, 2018


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