On the same day that high-scoring guard Buddy Hield was named the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, the university is being discussed for different reasons – ones that are much more sinister.
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger and players TaShawn Thomas, Isaiah Cousins and Frank Booker all attended the protests Monday morning against the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, which was disbanded and condemned by University of Oklahoma President David Boren within a few hours of the release of the racially discriminatory video.
“What happened is disgraceful and embarrassing and totally uncalled for,” Kruger said. “I think that’s the feeling of everyone. Not just the athletes, but everyone, anywhere. If you have a family member, you don’t want anyone subjected to that. You don’t want your children to see it. It’s not just an athletic thing. It’s across the board. Guys, I think, responded appropriately with great distaste for it.”
Kruger said that he addressed the issue with the players, but there was never any talk of cancelling practice or staging a similar walk-out as the football team. He acknowledged that the timing for both sports was very different.
Players spoke openly and honestly after practice about the incident.
“I saw the video,” Hield said. “I don’t know how to really comment on it.”
“Made me sick to my stomach,” said forward Ryan Spangler, who attended the protest late Sunday night. “I thought the world or our country was changing a little bit, but obviously, it hasn't. We'll keep working on that. I love everybody.”
Spangler added that he was happy with the swift justice from Boren, who was also at the unity protests both Sunday night and Monday morning.
“I think they got what they deserved,” Spangler said. “He let 'em know, called 'em a couple of names. I like that.”
The men’s basketball team will be the first athletic team to represent the Sooners away from Norman after the incident. Oklahoma’s baseball team will play the first game Tuesday night, but Thursday will be the first time the Sooners – and the university – will be on a major stage.
“I think our campus will be cheering for us,” Spangler said. “I think it'll get their mind off what's been going on. Hopefully, we'll get a win and they'll want to keep watching us.”
When asked to describe the mood of his team, Kruger said it was a combination of anger and disappointment. He called it an appropriate response.
“We’re all in this together,” Kruger said. “It’s all about being supportive of each other. That’s why we were there, to be part of an expression of this not being acceptable.”