Report: Parents accuse UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell of referencing noose, pressuring players to play hurt

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On Monday, the University of North Carolina placed Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell on leave along with the rest of her staff.

The school cited “issues raised by student-athletes and others” in initiating a review of the program.

UNC also announced that it was hiring a Charlotte-based law firm to “review and assess the culture of the women’s basketball program and the experience of our student-athletes.”

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Report sheds light on UNC coach suspension

An in-depth report from the Washington Post on Thursday sheds light on what prompted the university’s action including parents of student-athletes accusing Hatchell of pressuring players to play through injuries and using racially insensitive language that included referencing a “noose” when she was displeased with her team’s play.

The Post reports that it spoke with six parents of student-athletes anonymously after a larger group of parents met with the university last Thursday to discuss “medical treatment and/or lack thereof” and “racially inappropriate remarks or behavior.”

Parents: Hatchell referenced noose as motivation

Two parents who spoke with The Post cited the “noose” comment, which allegedly occurred following UNC’s 85-63 win over Howard this season. They had slightly differing accounts of Hatchell’s alleged statement that was paired with criticism of the team’s play.

“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 trees,” one parent told The Post of Hatchell’s alleged statement.

“We’re going up to Louisville,” another parent recalled. “Those people are going to be waiting with nooses to hang you from trees.”

Parents accuse Hall of Fame UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell of racially tinged comments and pressuring players to play hurt. (AP)
Parents accuse Hall of Fame UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell of racially tinged comments and pressuring players to play hurt. (AP)

Hatchell accused of other problematic comments

Six parents told The Post that their daughters said that Hatchell said in the locker room during the 2017-18 season that she should have known she couldn’t win championships with “a bunch of old mules.”

Parents also said players told them that Hatchell urged them to perform a “war chant” at the end of a practice to honor assistant coach Tracey Williams-Johnson, who is part Native American.

Williams-Johnson did not respond to The Post’s request for comment.

Hatchell’s attorney denies accusations of racism

Hatchell declined to comment on The Post’s inquiries, but her attorney Wade Smith did. He painted the parent’s complaints as misconstrued, according to The Post.

“There is not a racist bone in her body,” Smith told The Post. “A very high percentage of the people who have played for her and who love her are African-American women. She is a terrific coach, and a truly world-class human being.”

Smith contended that Hatchell’s comments about Louisville were that the team would “be hung out to dry” and the she would never use the word “noose.”

Smith also said that Hatchell did not recall the alleged “mule” or “war chant” incidents and that she may have urged players to perform a “tomahawk chop” ahead of a game with Florida State.

Hatchell accused of injury mismanagement

The Post also details multiple accounts of complaints about Hatchell pressuring players to play through injury.

Parents accused the team of waiting three weeks to perform an MRI on a player who suffered an in-game shoulder injury in 2016 and eventually informed her that she had a dislocation, but no tear. Outside opinions eventually determined that the player, Emily Sullivan, had a labrum tear and needed surgery.

In another instance, parents alleged that Hatchell urged Kennedy Boyd to play through a concussion this season.

Parents also accused Hatchell of pressuring Stephanie Watts to play through a knee injury suffered in February at the ACC tournament in March because WNBA scouts in attendance “want to see if she can play through pain.”

Watts did not play and was diagnosed by an outside source of having a tendon tear that required eight weeks rest, according to The Post.

The university declined further comment to The Post until its investigation is completed.

Hatchell’s Hall of Fame career

Hatchell has been the head coach at North Carolina since 1986, where she has compiled a 751-325 record. Her UNC teams have made three Final Fours and won the NCAA championship in 1994. Her overall 1,023-405 record places her fourth all-time on the wins list among women’s basketball coaches.

She released a statement Monday responding to the suspension of the coaching staff.

"I've had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball. My goal has always been to help them become the very best people they can be, on the basketball court and in life. I love each and every one of the players I've coached and would do anything to encourage and support them. They are like family to me. I love them all. Of course, I will cooperate fully in this review. I look forward to a prompt conclusion of this matter and the continuation of our very successful women's basketball program."

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