FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA) — The University of Arkansas Fort Smith is investigating a claim of racial discrimination against its head basketball coach.
Former basketball player Tyler Williams and his parents submitted a complaint that coach Jim Boone cut him from the team because of his dreadlocks.
Boone’s attorney denies this saying Williams left the team because he wasn’t going to get much playing time.
You can read the whole statement from attorney Tom Mars below.
Williams’ parents tell KNWA the attorney’s statement is completely false and Coach Boone made racist comments.
“Tyler even said I want to stay here coach. I want to stay here. It was Boone, Jim Boone, who said I don’t want you in my program. Also in his statement, he said because of the talent he brought in. Tyler is the highest returning scorer from last year,” Tiffini Williams says.
UAFS Chancellor Theresa Riley says she won’t comment on the ongoing investigation but released this statement:
“By now, many of you have read about an allegation of discrimination based on race which has been widely publicized on social media involving a head coach and a former student. Today, my message is sent in the spirit of transparency which I have promised to you as your chancellor.
First, the university received a copy of the allegation from a student and his parents approximately two weeks ago. At that time, the allegation was sent to the university’s EEO officer in the Department of Human Resources to be investigated. This is our standard practice for investigating any allegations of wrong-doing against employees of the university. The Department of Human Resources has not issued a final report; thus, I will not comment on specifics of the investigation in order to protect the rights of the employee and former student.
The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith will not tolerate racism or retaliation. We never want a student to leave the university feeling disrespected or devalued, and this situation serves as a powerful reminder that we must continually assess and work to create an inclusive environment that values all members of our community.”DR. TERISA RILEY, CHANCELLOR
The lawyer that represents head coach Jim Boone, Tom Mars, full statement regarding the situation:
Coach Boone didn’t punish or mistreat Tyler Williams over the length or style of his hair. In fact, he never made Tyler cut or change his hairstyle. Photos of Tyler’s hair over the past year show that his hairstyle never changed.
Coach Boone was around Tyler all summer and even had him come to his home for dinner. What’s more, contemporaneous records reflect the Coach commenting on Tyler’s appearance by saying he looked “great.”
Coach Boone’s attitude about player’s hairstyles is admittedly old-school, but it’s not discriminatory. He’d feel the same way if a young Larry Bird was playing for UA-Fort Smith. That said, he’s going to make it abundantly clear to everyone concerned that he recruits players based on their talent and character. Coach Boone also wants to make clear that, despite what he thinks about personal grooming standards for student-athletes, he doesn’t believe (and never has) that a player’s hairstyle, tattoo sleeves, or body piercings are indicative of their character or their potential to become the next Larry Bird or LeBron James.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen similar accusations made against a head coach by a student-athlete whose real motive is to create grounds for a waiver from the NCAA. In this case, we have a student-athlete who has already used the “one-time transfer without penalty” exception to avoid sitting out a year following a transfer from one school to another. Therefore, the only way he’ll be able to play basketball next season is to create a narrative that might cause the NCAA to believe that he transferred because he was somehow mistreated by his former school’s coaching staff.
Tyler wasn’t mistreated, and the issue about his hair had nothing to do with his decision to leave UA-Fort Smith. To the contrary, Tyler Williams transferred to a school in Oklahoma because Coach Boone had recruited some players who were more talented. It was fairly obvious to everyone – including Tyler – that he probably wasn’t going to get much time on the court next season if he stayed at UA-Fort Smith. This happens all the time in college sports, and that’s the real reason behind Tyler’s decision to leave UA-Fort Smith.
What the Williams’ are doing now appears to be a shot from half court in an effort to create grounds for a waiver so that Tyler will be able to play next season. Unfortunately, this scenario occurs all too often in college sports when players and their parents realize that’s the only route available to seek a waiver of the NCAA’s “year in residence” requirement following a transfer. For that reason, this familiar scenario of student-athletes suddenly accusing their former coach of misconduct as soon as they need a waiver has been the subject of countless sports news stories in recent months. They’d be easy for you to find.TOM MARS, MARS LAW FIRM