To the Amherst Community and Alumni:
Over the past three weeks, the members of the Amherst men’s lacrosse program have struggled to express in writing our collective feelings about the unacceptable actions of three of our teammates on March 8, 2020. The use of racial slurs has no place in our program nor in the Amherst community, and we wish to make it clear that the other members of our team condemn and disavow the actions of our teammates. Though we feel betrayed and outraged by this violation of trust, it cannot compare to the pain this incident has caused the Amherst community, especially students and faculty of color. We pen this statement to make a promise to the Amherst community to do all we can to make amends for the harm that has been done.
While the narrative surrounding the incident has in many cases become hyperbolized, there is no excuse or justification for any person outside of the black community to use the n-word regardless of context, relationships, phrasing or lack of ill-intent. We recognize that the very use of that word invokes a history of violence and oppression against people of color and we understand the gravity of our teammates’ language. Even when viewed in an accurate context, their actions are unacceptable and have wounded the Amherst community — a wound that has only been deepened by the prevailing, sensationalized narrative.
When you read this statement and reflect on the events that you are hearing and reading about, we want to make it clear that we stand with the community in our wholehearted condemnation of our teammates’ actions. These actions represent a grave failure to uphold the culture of respect and inclusivity that the other members of our team and Coach Thompson have worked diligently to create. As Bryan Stevenson writes in “Just Mercy,” “each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done,” and, as such, we hope that you will not judge our team on the mistakes of a few but instead on the efforts of many to engage in redemptive and restorative behavior in the future. Similarly, membership in any group does not constitute the entirety of one’s identity. We are more than just lacrosse players. We are first and foremost Amherst students. We think individually; we act individually; we deserve to be judged individually. While we are far from perfect, we love our Amherst community and strive to contribute in many ways outside of the sport that we play. Accordingly, we humbly request that each member of our team be evaluated based on their engagement with and commitment to the Amherst community at large.
While our primary concern is healing the harm caused to our community as a whole, we also offer our heartfelt support to our now former coach, Jon Thompson, and his family. He is an incredible leader and this incident is not at all reflective of the principles of respect, accountability and inclusivity that he lives by and imparted to us every day. His presence will be sorely missed in our program and our community.
This letter is obviously not enough to redress the damage this event has caused to the community, but this represents the very first step in a long process of restoration. This statement, no matter how sincere, is just a collection of words, and we understand that only through our sustained actions can we demonstrate the depth of our commitment.
The Amherst Men’s Lacrosse Team