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UPDATE McFeely blog: Southeastern Louisiana says accusations of racial slurs, beer can thrown toward Florida A&M fans at FCS playoff game are 'inaccurate'

Newspaper report alleged behavior by SELA student section that prompted one fan to say, 'I have nothing positive to say about SEL students.'

TOYOTA_STADIUM.JPG
Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, has been the longtime site of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game. Forum file photo

HAMMOND, La. — Southeastern Louisiana University says a report accusing its fans of using racial slurs and throwing a beer can at fans of Florida A&M during a Football Championship Subdivision playoff game Saturday night at Strawberry Stadium are "inaccurate."

A report in the Tallahassee Democrat, written by a Florida A&M student who is working at the newspaper this semester , said SELA students were "trash-talking" FAMU fans as they made their way into the seating section. Shakiria Hopkins wrote that fans used racial slurs directed at players and one fan threw a beer can into the FAMU cheering section that struck a child.

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Southeastern Louisiana's senior director of marketing Mike Rivault said via email that the school conducted an investigation and found the assertions to be untrue.
"Based on thorough investigation, including review of security video, the most serious assertions regarding a thrown beer can are not supported by the evidence. Other minor incidents reported, if they occurred at all, appear to have been very isolated and involved fans from both sides caught up in the enthusiasm that occurs in any high-stakes competition," Rivault said. "Unfortunately, it appears that much of what has been asserted is inaccurate."

Southeastern Louisiana beat FAMU 38-14 in the first-round game between unseeded teams. The Lions, who are on No. 2.-seeded North Dakota State's side of the postseason bracket, play at No. 3 James Madison in the second round Saturday.

Hopkins' report said fans Southeastern Louisiana's student section directed racial slurs at players.

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"By the start of the first quarter, SEL fans were holding up signs with crude messages. Some fans uttered the N-word to players. The large contingent of Rattlers fans, most traveling to Hammond in personal vehicles, refrained from responding, as long as they could. Many FAMU fans felt this was far beyond the usual spirited back-and-forth trash-talking between opposing fan bases," the report said. "During halftime, when many were taking a restroom break and patronizing the concession stand, a beer can apparently hurled from the SLU student section into the FAMU crowd strikes a child in his face, bloodying his nose. The child was trembling."

A message to Florida A&M's administration was not immediately returned.

The commissioner of the Southland Conference, of which Southeastern Louisiana is a member, said the league was aware of the allegations and was monitoring the situation before acting.

"I know that Southeastern officials are investigating the issue, including trying to get as much video as possible. Once that occurs, we'll address if and as necessary," Southland commissioner Tom Burnett said.

Florida A&M is a historically Black college located in Tallahassee. The Rattlers compete in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. They were making their first FCS playoff appearance since 2001.

The newspaper report said police officers at the stadium threatened to remove FAMU fans from the game instead of addressing the issue with Southeastern Louisiana fans.

"Malina Murray, a FAMU student in attendance, was not happy," the newspaper reported. "'It's one thing to support your school, but throwing beer is unacceptable,' she said.

"Jade Franklin, another FAMU student part of the SGA fan base, said she was disappointed in how the SEL fans behaved. 'I have nothing positive to say about SEL students,' she said."

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Murray said she was glad FAMU fans didn't respond to the taunts "because the narrative would've been flipped."

"I'm obviously hurt that we lost, but I'm happy the game is over so we can leave this stadium," she said.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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