According to a report by The Washington Post, the review of the University of North Carolina women’s basketball program was triggered by allegations that head coach Sylvia Hatchell had made racially insensitive comments and endangered players by forcing them to play through injuries.

Sylvia Hatchell allegations
Parents and athletes have accused North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell of making racist comments and forcing players to compete while injured. (Image: Ross D. Franklin/AP)

That report comes just days after Hatchell and her staff were put on paid administrative leave by North Carolina while the school conducts a review “due to issues raised by student-athletes and others.”

Parents Say Hatchell Spoke of ‘Nooses’

While the Post report highlights several racially offensive comments allegedly made by Hatchell, one story in particular stands out as problematic. After a win against Howard University on Dec. 28, several parents say that the coach made references to lynching to express her displeasure with the team’s performance, a decision that carried even strong connotations because of Howard’s standing as a historically black university.

“When you go to Louisville, if you perform like you did tonight, they’re going to have nooses outside the arena, and they’re going to hang you by your necks from tress,” the Post quoted one mother in recalling the comment,

Other parents used different phrasing, as they were recounting what Hatchell said according to their children who are on the team. But according to the Post, all of the parents interviewed agreed that their daughters said the coach had referred to a “noose” and a “tree” in the tirade.

Interestingly, while Hatchell’s attorney Wade Smith told the Post that the coach didn’t remember some of the other comments that players and parents complained about, Hatchell was familiar with this incident, though she disputed the language used.

“She said, ‘They’re going to take a rope and string us up, and hang us out to dry,’” Smith told the newspaper.

Concerns Raised Over Injury Treatment

The Post report also mentions that parents were concerned with how the coaching staff dealt with injuries.

One prominent incident that allegedly came up in a meeting between parents and university administrators last week was that of junior guard Emily Sullivan, who dislocated her shoulder against LSU. The coaching staff is accused of avoiding giving Sullivan an MRI and having her play with the injury for nearly two years. Only after that time did Sullivan get an outside opinion, finding that she would need a “complete reconstruction” of her shoulder due to a torn labrum.

In a statement made Monday, Hatchell said she would cooperate fully with the review. When speaking to the Post, Smith defended his client, saying “there is not a racist bone in her body.”

“A very high percentage of the people who have played for her and love her are African-American women,” Smith said. “She is a terrific coach and a truly world-class human being.”

Hatchell isn’t the only women’s college basketball coach whose behavior has come under scrutiny this season. Last month, Northern Kentucky senior Taryn Taugher wrote a piece for The Odyssey alleging verbal and emotional abuse by head coach Camryn Whitaker. The Cincinnati Enquirer has interviewed other players who have made similar accusations against Whitaker, though eight current Northern Kentucky players have also signed a letter supporting their coach.

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