Whitworth University, a private Christian institution in Spokane, Wash., announced Wednesday it was suspending five members of its women's soccer team after an Instagram photo of the women posing in blackface went viral, attracting national media attention including ESPN.
Spokane's Spokesman Review reports the five student athletes donned the blackface in an attempt to masquerade as The Jackson 5 at an off-campus event on Aug. 31. Women's soccer head coach Jael Hagerott said his players' "intentions were not malicious," but "the outcome of their actions was painful for many." As a result, he suspended the players from Wednesday evening's season-opening soccer match, triggering a university investigation of their conduct.
"In talking to some students, they have shared with me, personally, that they were not aware of the history of blackface," Whitworth Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dr. Lawrence Burnley told KXLY-TV. "Now, for some that's hard to believe. How can you not be aware of this history? And if, in fact, you are not—and I believe some people quite frankly are not—what does that say about [our] educational system? I'm not talking about Whitworth. I'm talking about education in the United States."