On Tuesday, the Yale Daily News reported that the Yale basketball program is facing backlash on campus for its show of support for former team captain Jack Montague, who the News reported had withdrawn from the school on Feb. 10. On Thursday, the Yale Daily News further reported that that backlash is escalating.
Before their game against Harvard at Payne Whitney Gym on Senior Night last Friday, members of the team took the court wearing shirts with Montague’s jersey number and nickname, “Gucci,” on the back and “Yale” spelled backwards on the front, which Justin Sears characterized as a show of support for Montague after the game.
“‘Yale’ spelled backwards wasn’t to make a statement. It’s just because Yale is a brand and there was a copyright,” Sears told the News postgame. “It was just convenient, at the last minute. Everyone on the team supported it and wanted to show our support for Jack.”
But Tuesday, the YDN reported posters featuring a picture of the team dressed in the shirts and asking Yale men’s basketball to “stop supporting a rapist” appeared all over campus, including at the entrance of Payne Whitney Gym. The majority of the posters had been taken down by 8 a.m. that same day, most by members of the team, according to the Yale Daily News. Sears said told the News Sunday that Yale athletic director Tom Beckett and coach James Jones did not have “any say” in the shirts, declining to say whether the staff knew about the shirts in advance.
Then Thursday, the YDN reported a second wave of posters appearing on campus:
By 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, new posters were hung on two billboards just outside the lecture hall and placed on chairs inside the hall. A handwritten note chalked on the classroom’s blackboard read “Rape culture is standing by your teammate and silencing Yale’s victims of sexual assault.”
Another poster read “This poster will probably be torn down by the men’s basketball team” and in smaller font beneath, “Stop silencing women.” Sears told the News on Monday night that members of the team had taken down most of the posters found around campus on Monday morning.
One poster on Wednesday appeared to respond to Sears’ comment that after Friday’s game that Montague is “one of our brothers” and “family to us,” reading, “‘Teammate’ ‘Family’ ‘Brother’ Rapist.” The two other posters put out Wednesday read: “YDN, why so silent? Stop protecting a rapist” and “I stand with Yale women. End rape culture. Don’t support rapists.”
The Yale Women’s Center commented on the situation on its Facebook page Wednesday night, directly addressing the men’s basketball team in one passage:
It is important to remember that there are power dynamics at play in all student organizations, athletic teams included, that leave some members with less agency than others. However, though we can only speculate the intent behind the basketball team’s shirt protest, student’s words and behaviors establish campus norms. The team’s actions seem to us a dismissal of the very real threat of sexual violence. That some of the members of the team thought the potential expulsion was a matter to protest shows that toxic attitudes about sexual violence persist on our campus.
The News additionally reported that Montague has retained a lawyer within the week, noting that New Haven law firm Jacobs & Dow, LLC confirmed Monday that Montague is a client at the firm. But attorney William Dow declined to tell the News whether Montague was a client and told Jezebel Thurday morning that “We do not represent Mr. Montague.”
Jezebel also reported Thursday morning that multiple students told the organization that the team is rumored to be planning a walkout at its game at Columbia Saturday night, the final contest of the regular season.