Student leaves Tennessee after protest over blackface image spills over to basketball game

Students used the student section at a Tennessee basketball game to protest a racist image posted by a fellow student. (Getty)
Students used the student section at a Tennessee basketball game to protest a racist image posted by a fellow student. (Getty)

Controversy over a racist image posted on social media by four people believed to be students at the University of Tennessee spilled into the stands at an SEC basketball game on Tuesday.

Outrage was sparked last week when a social media image began to circulate showing two of the four white males involved wearing a dark substance on their faces with a caption reading:

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“We for racial equality boys. Bout to get this free college now that I’m black let’s gooooo #blacklivesmatter”

Tennessee condemns ‘abhorrent’ image

The university acknowledged the social media post on Friday in a statement on the school’s website.

“Earlier today, the university was made aware of a screengrab of a Snapchat photo that included four individuals we believe to be our students. Two of them were in blackface. The image is repulsive and the caption abhorrent. The racism displayed in this image does not represent the behavior we expect of students or our Volunteer values.”

Vice Chancellor for Student Life Vince Carilli said at a meeting Monday with students and university officials that the school was debating how to discipline the students involved. He said expulsion was unlikely, citing the student’s First Amendment rights.

“We would be hard-pressed to expel a student for expressing their First Amendment rights,” Carilli said.

Students call for offending students to be expelled

An undergraduate student created a Change.org petition urging UT to expel the offending students.

On Tuesday, around 50 students showed up to Tennessee’s home basketball game against Mississippi behind the basket in the student section dressed in black to protest the racist imagery and call for the expulsion of the students, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports.

Students protest during anthem at basketball game

Those students remained seated during the national anthem as a form of protest.

The News-Sentinel reports that the students led several chants condemning racism and calling for the students involved to be expelled.

"Hey, hey, ho, ho, racism has got to go," the students chanted.

"No justice, no peace, no racist, UT," they said another time.

"What do we want? Expulsion! When do we want it? Now!" they chanted at halftime.

They also came with signage reading “#UTDiversitymatters.”

One student leaves school

The News-Sentinel reports that Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis sent an email to students and faculty Wednesday noting that one of the involved students was no longer enrolled at Tennessee.

"While federal law prohibits us from commenting on specific students beyond their enrollment status, we can tell you that Ethan Feick is no longer a student at the University of Tennessee," the email read.

Feick’s brother Wylan Feick emailed the News-Sentinel that he left the university “on his own accord.”

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