SU men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim visits #NotAgainSU

Boeheim appears at Barnes, visiting #NotAgainSU

At a postgame press conference three days ago Boeheim's remarks were criticized for not being supportive of the student movement
Published: November 16, 2019
Syracuse University’s varsity men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim speaks to reporters in a press conference after the game against Colgate on Nov. 13, 2019. Syracuse beat Colgate with a score of 70 to 54.
Jim Boeheim attended the #NotAgainSU sit-in Saturday and addressed his remarks from Wednesday's post game press conference.

Famed Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim visited the ongoing protest at the Barnes Center today, addressing both the protest and incidents, as well as his personal statement made several days ago about the first incident in Day Hall.

Boeheim made a statement at a press conference on Nov. 13 regarding his personal experiences at SU, which he regards as diverse and inclusive. He shared that Syracuse was the first university to “really have Black athletes” in 1956 before expressing his belief that SU has “always been a minority friendly school.” While he acknowledged the crimes committed in Day Hall, his position that the actions weren’t representative of the University never wavered. When meeting with students today, though, he expressed greater reservations when it comes to Syracuse’s inclusivity.

“There is no perfect campus in this country,” he said. SU basketball players flanked Boeheim, as student activists questioned him about his public statement and his position on the movement.

Boeheim maintained that he was “Here today to show I support this group. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t.” Still many students were disappointed in his prior statement, as well as his answers to questions. A student asked fellow protesters to “raise [their] hand if [they] were hurt by the statement,” prompting hoards of hands to shoot upwards.

Boeheim responded with “I don’t understand what you just said. What I just said and what you just said…by my impression this has always been a diverse school.” Boeheim maintained that his statement was made in regards to the first incident of graffiti found in Day Hall, attempting to justify his comments which implied that the crime was an isolated incident.

The students pressed on, urging Boeheim to stand firmly in support of their demands. While Boeheim shared that he supported the group, he did not decisively stand in affirmation of the demands, saying: “I don’t like the word demands. I like the word ‘let’s talk about it.’”

Student activists have been particularly vocal in their disdain for Boeheim’s comments. As a basketball coach, Boeheim has profited off of the talents and labor of Black athletes for decades. Coach Boeheim attempted to capitalize off of his proximity to the Black community both in his statement and during his visit to the Barnes Center, sharing: “I’ve lived and played with African Americans in 1960, when there were no African Americans playing in any northeastern schools.” Boeheim has brought up his own personal relationships as a teammate, coworker, and coach of African Americans several times when addressing the ongoing incidents. Activists remain unimpressed, calling for action.

“At the end of the day you are massive in this community and you are a leader, and if you stand up and you say the University needs to take action, no more forums, no more talking, but action. Because we’re really sick of doing this,” said one of the student activists.

While Boeheim continuously asserted he supported the students protesting and the goals of the movement, he took care to deemphasize his own influence saying, “I obviously don’t make decisions here. I make decisions about who plays in a basketball game.”

While Boeheim’s appearance was a certain show of support, student activists remain underwhelmed, pushing for more than platitudes and non-committal responses.

“What we need from you is for your to use your platform as a Syracuse University leader and a Community leader,” said one student activist.

“One hundred percent,” interrupted Boeheim.

As the protest continues, students remain vigilant in their quest for public displays of support from leaders both within and beyond the University. While Boeheim’s willingness to be present at the protest was noted and appreciated by student organizers at The Barnes Center, others remain underwhelmed and exhausted by his evasive rhetoric.