Tyler Williams, a former basketball player for the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, said he was removed from the team because the coach didn’t like his dreadlocks.
The Arkansas Times reports that Williams, a senior from Edmonds, Oklahoma, was the second-leading scorer for UAFS in his junior year, but that made no difference to coach Jim Boone, who’s white.
A former basketball player at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith said his coach removed him from the team because of his dreadlocks. (Photo: Mike Lawrie / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images)
Before Williams’ senior year began, Boone talked to him about his hairstyle, and he allegedly complained about it.
On Sept. 1 a student at the school tweeted a note that was written by Williams’ parents about an August 16 meeting they had with Boone to discuss his conversation with their son. The parents recorded their sit-down with the coach, and Tyler Williams was there as well.
“Tyler began the conversation by stating that he would like to talk about the first face-to-face meeting he had with Boone,” the letter read. “Tyler stated to Boone that he was bothered by his statement that he did not like his hair and would not be recruiting players with hair like Tyler … As an employee of UAFS, this statement by Boone is race-based discrimination, based on Tyler’s natural hairstyle.”
The Williamses also stated in the letter that Boone, who began to get angry, said “In my 33 years of coaching, I have never had a guy who had a hair in any other way than I require. And just like that, Boone dismissed Tyler from the UAFS Men’s Basketball program 3 days before the start of school.”
In the audio footage recorded by the Williamses, Boone can clearly be heard admitting that he wouldn’t recruit players with dreadlocks. And he can also be heard getting upset after Tyler and his parents pressed him on that reasoning, which you can hear below.
On Aug. 25 Tyler tweeted that he was transferring from UAFS to attend Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla. but didn’t indicate why.
Then once the letter made the Internet rounds, thanks to the student who tweeted it, UAFS’ Chancellor Terisa Riley issued a statement and said an investigation was underway. She also wrote the school “Will not tolerate racism or retaliation.”
Earlier this week, Tyler Williams’ parents talked about the situation on “The Chop Shop Sports Radio” in Houston, Texas and said Boone should be terminated.
Boone’s attorney Tom Mars issued a statement earlier this week as well and confirmed that his client doesn’t like Williams’ hair but it’s not about race.
“Coach Boone’s attitude about player’s hair styles is admittedly old-school, but it’s not discriminatory,” stated Mars. “He’d feel the same way if a young Larry [Bird] was playing for UA-Fort Smith.”
As of now, Boone is still employed as UAFS’ head coach.
The controversy is similar to an incident that occurred in New Jersey last year when high school wrestler Andrew Johnson was told by a referee that he couldn’t compete until he cut his dreadlocks, which he was forced to do right before his match began.