Controversy over Yale basketball team’s support of Jack Montague erupts on campus

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is facing backlash on campus for its show of support for former team captain Jack Montague, who the News reported had withdrawn from the school on Feb. 10.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.


6 thoughts on “Controversy over Yale basketball team’s support of Jack Montague erupts on campus”

  1. According to an article late Thursday night at the New Haven Register, Jack Montague’s father stated that his son has been expelled from Yale:

    – “We have strict orders from our lawyers,” said Jim Montague,. “Soon enough, I’d love to tell the other side of the story. It’s ridiculous, why he’s expelled. It’s probably going to set some sort of precedent. We’re trying to do things the gentleman’s way, so we’re keeping things close-knit. But you guys will get a story.”

    In a Yale Daily News article from this morning, there is an expansion on the issue of expulsion at the school:

    – Yale’s Undergraduate Regulations define an expulsion as a “permanent separation from the University” that will be recorded on the individual’s academic transcript. An expulsion may be imposed by either the Yale College Executive Committee or recommended by the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, according to the regulations.

    The regulations do not state whether a student who has been expelled can be reinstated to the University. If a student withdraws when facing pending disciplinary charges, the student is not eligible for reinstatement, re-enrollment or a Yale College degree.

    A powerful Op-Ed in today’s Yale Daily Herald further discusses the issue of expulsion, the alleged actions of Montague and the actions of the men’s basketball team:

    – Due to government regulations and internal policies, Yale cannot confirm or deny any questions about his withdrawal, including whether or not formal University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) proceedings took place. However, Montague has withdrawn from Yale, despite stating to the YDN as late as Feb. 17 that he intended to return to the team soon. UWC cases will only result in expulsion if the committee finds a preponderance of evidence that a respondent severely violated Yale’s sexual misconduct policy, a decision that takes into account prior violations of a similar nature. This preponderance standard means that there was convincing evidence that an expellable offense occurred. A look at any semi-annual Report will show that expulsions are infrequent relative to the volume of complaints; last semester’s Report cites only one such case.

    So if a UWC panel recommended that Montague be expelled for sexual assault, as the posters imply, I find it hard to believe that his teammates were wholly unaware, given their purported degree of closeness. By wearing those warmup shirts, the basketball team itself entered the conversation. Despite assurances that the shirts were simply a display of solidarity for a teammate who was missing after a four-year Yale basketball career, these shirts did not appear to be solely an ode to a missing teammate. Words are powerful, and the presence of “Gucci 4” on the back of the shirts and a backwards “Yale” written on the front sent a clear message to the crowd. In attendance at the game to support my friends on the team, I felt uncomfortable and sad, and I imagine that I was not alone.

    The shirts did, in fact, “make it as clear as possible that Jack is one of [their] brothers,” as senior forward Justin Sears told the YDN. It’s just that their expression of brotherhood is incompatible with a campus climate in which everyone can feel safe. The basketball team, or any varsity team for that matter, stands in a particularly privileged position; inherently, some voices will be heard louder than others. There is a power in the scope of their public reach that can also be a burden.

    Whether or not the team will admit it, the shirts were an orchestrated act of protest. The context under which these shirts were presented was meant to cause a reaction, and it has: I believe reactions like those articulated in the posters are justified. The display of support for Montague in such a public and televised setting is an irresponsible use of their spotlight. Regardless of their stated intent and attempt to distance themselves from the backlash that follows an act of protest, I sincerely doubt that the majority of the team was unaware of what they were implying to their audience.

    – In addition to the name being inscribed on shirts, chants of “Gucci” echoed in the gym as the team went on to beat Harvard. With each cheer, it became apparent that the crowd’s support was for more than just a name on a shirt. Sure, some fans may miss their friend Jack, but these chants were not present at previous games or on Senior Night. Regardless of whether or not the cheers were merely a demonstration of support for the missing player, they reinforced the message of the t-shirts: Montague is not truly gone so long as his name is chanted and glorified, and those who feel uncomfortable about it are unwelcome in this gym. The nature of some conversations on campus surrounding sexual violence or hookup culture has made behaviors like these appropriate.

    – Walking out of the gym Friday night, I felt confused and uneasy about what these shirts could mean for our community. The front of the team’s jerseys still reads Yale, inverted though the letters may be. As representatives of Yale on the court, this power—of having a voice and stage on which to be seen—has to be accompanied by a greater sense of accountability and responsibility. A responsibility to understand the implications of one’s actions, yes, but also to respect the safety of the students who inhabit the space alongside them.


    With each passing day, it appears that the Yale men’s basketball team was doing more than supporting their former captain. Even if their act was one of protest against the administration, they have to realize that they have caused great pain to a significant portion of their community.

    While nothing may come from the team during its last two road games, the players will need to find a way to be more truthful after Saturday night’s contest. If the wearing of the shirts was truly only a message of support for a friend, then they still will need to reach out and mend relationships with the many people they have hurt in this last week.

    Additionally, Coach Jones and the Athletic Department will need to open up to the community. While they certainly are not at liberty to talk about specifics regarding Mr. Montague, they can discuss the actions of the players and what they did or did not know.

    Even though I have no affiliation with Yale, I enjoyed watching this team as they dealt with last season’s heartbreak and this year’s successes. I had hoped that they would take the league championship and make the national stage in the NCAA Tournament. After the events of the last several weeks, I feel great sadness and anger at the alleged harmful actions by the former captain and the shortsighted insensitive behavior of the team. Any good will I have felt for this team has disappeared and I can only hope that they do not earn that title.

    However, if they should somehow win, maybe that turn out to be beneficial since it can force a national spotlight on the team and its leadership to be more open about their actions and sensitive to those that do not have as powerful a voice.

    • To criticize an Israeli for shooting a Palestinian child is anti-semitic, to support wage equality is to be a socialist and to trust a teammate who has been like a brother instead of the voice of woman who is but a stranger, is to support a rapist. Sweeping generalizations have been made regarding the Yale men’s basketball team and its former captain, Jack Montague. Jack Montague did not step on Yale’s campus as a racist and, unless convicted in a court of law, did not leave as one. (Yes, Jezebel, we still do have judicial formalities.)
      What seems to be forgotten is that there are 2 human beings involved, not a monster and a victim. Sexual assault is a grave problem, often not addressed on campuses throughout the country. That does not give anyone a license to libel and slander or a paint a broad brush of indifference across a group of male athletes. Or to invent a rumor of a rumor that the men’s basketball team could walk out on the last game of their season at Columbia. Now that was the voice of someone very desperate for attention and very unaware of the devotion of those players to their school and their team.
      Another grave problem on campuses often not addressed is the culture of alcoholism. For students far away from home, needing to fit in, gain social acceptance, and under stress, it may swallow you up. It is a disease no one wants to discuss in the Ivies, like depression and suicide.
      As most of us know, many from real life experiences, alcohol does cause some to do horribly misguided things. But we in the end remain human. We would have to acknowledge the problem of alcoholism to help rehabilitate the afflicted. Instead we turn our heads, point our fingers and declare “monster” or “rapist” and then feel good about ourselves. In the end, we hope, the strong will not let name calling and finger pointing to define them and will move forward to a new chapter in life.

      • At this point in time, Jack Montague could be a “monster” rapist *OR* he could actually be the victim here. The truth could also be somewhere in between.

        What disappoints me but does not surprise me is that so many people on both sides of the argument are reacting as if they *ALREADY* know where on the continuum of rapist to victim Montague is. Nobody but Montague and his accuser knows the truth and yet everybody already has a fully formed opinion.

        To all the protestors on the Yale campus, the fans chanting “Gucci” in the stands as well as posters and columnists on this website, you don’t know the facts yet. Opinions without facts are skyscrapers without foundations.

  2. William M. – Well stated. In a situation as serious as this, the bell cannot be “unrung” for Montague. Since it doesn’t affect these people with their opinions, they forget to have any bit of empathy for the people involved.

  3. Absolutely — no — often in life truth is not in the middle. Because, truth is not gray, it is absolute. What we do know (and please tell me where I am wrong) is that Yale is a hotbed of discontent. Much of that discontent is found in alleged discriminatory behavior on campus effecting those of race and gender.

    Am I right so far? Whether this discontent has anything to do with Jack Montague and his alleged sexual partner/rape victim remains to be seen. However, let’s go forward to a lawsuit against Yale. What happens when the alleged victim testifies? What happens when the Title IX coordinator testifies? What happens when David Post testifies? What happens when Aley Menon testifies? What happens when the members of the University-Wide Committee testify? Someone in the process is going to look like an idiot in their testimony.

    What is going to come out of this: Jack had a consensual relationship with his alleged victim. His alleged victim had a willing sexual encounter. The alleged victim regretted the encounter. The alleged victim never intended to make a formal complaint for whatever reason. The coordinator made the complaint for her. Yale settles the lawsuit for undisclosed millions with Jack agreeing to a gag order.

    However, Jack’s life is ruined. His reputation is ruined. Men and women have been at each other’s throats for 40,000 years. There are women that are forced to have sex that is the legal definition of rape. If a woman feels uncomfortable, does not voice her refusal, the inability of the other person to not be able to read the mind of that person who is refusing is not rape. We may have created laws based out of thin air to convict people who can’t mind read — but it is not rape.

    Hundreds of people are accused in colleges every year of so called sexual misconduct. In all but a few cases, there are significant flaws in due process. The fact the University-Wide Committee at Yale limits each side to a 10 minute statement is ridiculous and bares no weight in a court of law. This is nether a criminal court, or a civil court but a punitive court was is not supported by the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution. And just because colleges allow it, it does not make it legal. Nor does Title IX make the use of such bodies — legal.

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