Longtime University of North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell has resigned after more than three decades with the program, following the conclusion of an investigation that found she made “racially insensitive” remarks, pressured players to play injured, and generally failed to connect with her players, the university said in a press release published late last night.
Earlier this month, UNC announced they were investigating allegations about Hatchell’s behavior. The university, citing findings from the independent review it commissioned into Hatchell, concluded that the 67-year-old coach isn’t “viewed as a racist,” but she used “racially insensitive” language that reportedly included telling her players they could be hung “from trees with nooses.” From the statement:
Hatchell made comments that were racially insensitive, and when confronted by players and staff did not respond in a timely or appropriate manner. The review concluded that Hatchell is not viewed as a racist, but her comments and subsequent response caused many in the program to believe she lacked awareness and appreciation for the effect her remarks had on those who heard them.
Earlier this month, after news of the investigation broke, Hatchell’s attorney Wade Smith told the Associated Press that Hatchell “didn’t have a racist bone in her body,” a statement that has yet to be checked with an orthopedist.
The review also found that Hatchell pressured her players to play through injuries and that there was a “breakdown of connectivity” between the Hatchell and her players, which is the most euphemistic way possible to say they described her as an abusive task master. According to a Washington Post report citing 11 anonymous parents of former and current players, Hatchell and team doctors pressured players to “take painkiller shots and keep playing rather than sit out and seek treatment.” From the Post:
Parents recalled, with horror, their daughters describing one teammate trying to play through injury a few seasons ago, needing an injection before every game, and her knee drained of fluid at halftime. She eventually retired from basketball because of knee damage.
And the parents were particularly disturbed, they said in interviews, by how frequently North Carolina players learned through second opinions that they had more serious injuries than the team doctor described when he cleared them to play. Five members of the current team learned they had been playing through undiagnosed injuries, parents said in interviews, that included a torn labrum, a torn knee tendon and a broken hand.
This directly contradicts the university’s statement that that said, “Despite Hatchell’s questioning of player care, status and readiness, the medical staff did not surrender to pressure to clear players before they were medically ready.”
Hatchell did not address the allegations against her in her farewell statement, which was included the the university’s press release. She said:
“While this is a bittersweet day, my faith remains strong. After the fight of my life with leukemia, I count every day as a blessing. I am grateful that God granted me more days on this earth to continue my calling as a coach. I have always believed that we are blessed so we can bless others. My goal has been to plant enough seeds to reap a good harvest. Today, I can truly say that my harvest has been abundant.”