Saint Mary's athletes lock down social media accounts after sexist tweets

The athletics director at Saint Mary's University in Halifax says he feels guilty for not monitoring his student athletes after 10 football player were suspended for tweeting hateful and sexist remarks.

10 football players at Halifax school suspended from team after online remarks

SMU football players declined to comment Tuesday. (CBC)

Football players at Saint Mary's University in Halifax locked down their social media profiles Tuesday, a day after 10 players were suspended from the team for tweeting hateful and sexist remarks.

One player tweeted, "That bitch bit me last night. Hope your dead in a ditch, you are scum." Other posts included slurs about women and gay men.

Saint Mary's University was the subject of international scrutiny in the fall after a video emerged of a frosh week chant encouraging underage sex without consent.

It's particularly disappointing that this would happen ... so soon after the media focus on Saint Mary's.— Wayne MacKay of Dalhousie University

By Tuesday afternoon, most of the players involved had tightened their social media privacy settings to restrict public access to their posts.

Approached near the football field, no players would comment on the situation. One former player apologized for a racist joke he retweeted in an email to The Canadian Press.

David Murphy, the athletics director at Saint Mary's University, planned to meet with the 10 suspended players Tuesday afternoon to discuss further discipline.

"I was appalled, I'm discouraged, I'm disappointed," said Murphy, 71.

The athletes have not been suspended from the university, but SMU said they could face further disciplineunder the school’s code of conduct.

Murphy said he will look at each tweet and make decisions on suspensions.

"If you bring disrepute to the university, then you are automatically suspended," said Murphy. "We're taking a black eye. This is not something we want to promote."

'They're good kids'

He said five of the players involved are 18-year-old freshmen who, he thinks, haven't had enough time to immerse themselves in the team culture.

"They're not malicious people. They're good kids. They made a mistake," he said.

Murphy said he feels guilty no one in his athletics department was monitoring the student athletes' tweets. They were first exposed by journalism students studying at the University of King's College.

"I'm falling behind in my due diligence and my ability to teach these kids," he said. "Maybe that's a breakdown in the communication. You have an older person who is not savvy to all that.

"I feel very badly that I let the university down."

Murphy said the athletes were spoken to after the pro-rape chant, but no one monitored their online behaviour.

"We really buckled down with the student athletes, I did, and we really put out that you have to be very, very careful with social media. Don't be doing this," he said.

Report's author disappointed 

In the fallout of the pro-rape chant, the university endorsed a report from an independent council that contains 20 recommendations on cultural changes to "prevent sexual violence and inspire respectful behaviour and a safe learning environment at Saint Mary's."

The author of that report, Wayne MacKay of Dalhousie University, said the latest controversy disappointed him.

"Not only was there the sexist and violence against women element to it, which was front and centre in the Saint Mary's study, but also racism, homophobia — a whole range of things," said MacKay.

"It's particularly disappointing that this would happen … so soon after the media focus on Saint Mary's."

With files from The Canadian Press


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