Students, intramurals director report trend of misconduct from participants

Alan Perez, Assistant Campus Editor

Participants of Northwestern’s recreational sports league have engaged in overly competitive behavior, resulting in racial and homophobic slurs and causing injury to some, according to interviews with students and an announcement by the associate director of intramural sports.

Ryan Coleman, associate director of intramural sports, wrote in a Monday announcement posted to the intramural sports website that over-competitiveness in the sports league has resulted in threats, fights and yelling. The behavior developed within the past few years, Coleman told The Daily, and the league is planning to implement changes to combat it.

“Too many participants have behaved poorly recently for this to be handled as isolated incidents,” he wrote in the announcement. “This behavior we have witnessed over the past few years has been very disappointing.”

Coleman declined to specify the number or details of the incidents, but told The Daily he has reported several students to the Office of Student Conduct.

Several students interviewed by The Daily echoed Coleman’s statements.

Communication sophomore Katherine Kearney said a fellow intramurals team member is consistently hostile toward referees and opponents, even making sexist and racist remarks during pregame huddles. Before one game, the teammate referred to a team made up of mostly students of color by using a racially offensive term, Kearney said.

Weinberg sophomore Carter Rothman said he once heard a member of the opposing team whisper a homophobic slur during a soccer game last spring. Though Rothman wasn’t sure who the comment was directed at, he said he was surprised a co-ed league branded as uncompetitive would reach that level of hostility.

Coleman told The Daily he hadn’t noticed the behavior coming from a specific group, though Kearney, who heads the Communication Residential College’s intramural teams, said she has noticed extreme competitiveness from teams of faculty and graduate students.

“They tend to get a lot more into the IMs,” she said. “Some students are just there … to get a point so they can get the room they want next year or just to do something different.”

During a flag football game last quarter, Kearney said a faculty member from the opposing team ripped the leggings on the upper thigh of female team member. The faculty member claimed he was reaching for the flag on the player’s waist, but “it takes a good amount of effort” to tear clothing, Kearney said.

The competitiveness has discouraged some students from returning, according to interviews with two students. Rothman, who heads intramural teams for Humanities Residential College, said a pair of students approached him after a hockey game that was “way too intense” and said they would not return.

Several students said they witnessed overly-competitive behavior from Slivka Residential College.

“A lot of the residential colleges dread going into games with Slivka,” Weinberg junior Ava Serra said. “We know that we might get hurt. They’re gonna be loud. They’re gonna be obnoxious. It’s not a fun time.”

In an email to The Daily, the Slivka executive board said no serious injuries were caused by Slivka players in “several years.”

“Individuals that fostered a competitive environment on the team have since graduated or no longer live in Slivka,” the statement said. “The image that persists is based on outdated stereotypes. We currently strive to promote a fun and relaxing environment for all of our players, beginner and advanced, ensuring that the spirit of the game remains light.”

Some students place partial blame on referees for not enforcing rules. Serra said the referees, mostly student employees from her experience, are sometimes inattentive.

“Refs kind of have this really nonchalant attitude,” she said. “They start to care when someone gets hurt. And then that’s about it. Otherwise, you have to take care of the game yourself.”

Kearney said some officials are condescending to those who aren’t familiar with rules and are sometimes “lackadaisical” when players get injured. Two students said they have seen heated confrontations between players and referees.

In the Monday announcement, Coleman defended the student referees.

“The level of officiating will probably not change much moving forward,” he wrote. “The one area of improvement we will work on as officials is to be as professional and respectful towards all of you during your IM games. … We expect the same back from all of you.”

In the statement, Coleman also urged participants to change the culture of the league to play “fairly and with great sportsmanship.” Referees will the stop games and the number of matches will be reduced, he wrote, if the behavior continues.

Additionally, Coleman said he has met with members of the Office to establish plans to combat the behavior, including adding language and policies to captain handbooks. He said he will confirm team captains are familiar with the new guidelines and introduce pregame meetings to ensure players are aware as well.

“The students just don’t need to be yelling and getting in fights and saying certain things,” Coleman told The Daily. “We need to fix that.”

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