Longtime UNC Coach on Leave Amid Controversy

Sylvia Hatchell accused of making remark about 'nooses,' reportedly pressuring hurt players
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2019 9:12 AM CDT
North Carolina head coach Sylvia Hatchell instructs her team during a first-round game against California in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Waco, Texas, on March 23, 2019.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(Newser) – For more than 30 years, Sylvia Hatchell has coached women's basketball at the University of North Carolina. Now several players seem ready to defect after parents say Hatchell made "racially inappropriate" remarks and also allegedly forced players to keep shooting hoops even though they were hurt. Per the Washington Post, UNC announced this week that Hatchell and her entire staff had been placed on paid leave after parents of players accused Hatchell and a team doctor of pressuring three young women to keep playing despite significant injuries. As for what the Post describes as "bizarre racial comments," Hatchell allegedly spurred players to do a "war chant" to "honor" a Native American assistant coach. Hatchell has also been accused of telling players they'd be "hanged from trees with nooses" if their game play didn't improve.

While parents differ on the exact wording of that quote, they all agree their daughters heard the word "noose." Hatchell's attorney, however, tells the News & Observer that the coach "absolutely" didn't use that word. "She said, 'They are going to come after us, and hang us out to dry,'" Wade Smith says, though he adds she's sorry for using the word "hang." "There is not a racist bone in her body." The paper also reports that a half-dozen players have transferred over the last five years out of the UNC women's basketball program, and that four more are currently set to do the same. In a statement, Hatchell said, "I love each and every one of the players I've coached and would do anything to encourage and support them." (Last year, a UNC campus statue honoring Confederate soldiers was toppled.)

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