Colorado State issued a public apology following Saturday’s 88-79 loss to Utah State.
Max Shulga, who is from Ukraine, was at the free throw line late in the second half when a small group of CSU students were accused of antagonizing him by yelling “Russia”.
The issue was first brought to light by Utah State radio commentator Scott Garrard, who tweeted about it at 8:30 p.m. MT. And honestly, as someone that was in Moby Arena and actively paying attention, the post was extremely confusing. At no point did I hear students chanting anything remotely inappropriate towards the USU players. Neither did any of the other individuals I spoke with that were also in attendance.
Eventually clips from the broadcast began to surface on Twitter and while the audio is imperfect, there was a small fraction of students that did harass Shulga while he was at the line.
Being completely transparent, I’m not sure that the evidence is conclusive regarding what was said. For one thing, if I tell myself going in that they are saying “Russia” then that’s what I hear in the clip. But if I tell myself that they are saying “Shulga” then that’s also what I hear. And finally, if I tell myself they are going to say “bullshit”, then that’s what I hear on the clip.
If it was in fact “Russia” that was being yelled out in order to get into Shulga’s head, as a CSU alumnus, I’m disappointed that someone would cross that line and hope to see some type of punishment if the school can prove who was involved.
As of right now, CSU issued the following statement: “On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State. This is a violation of our steadfast belief in the Mountain West Sportsmanship Policy and University Principles of Community. Every participant, student, and fan should be welcome in our venues, and for something like this to have occurred is unacceptable at Colorado State.”
Men’s head basketball coach Niko Medved also tweeted out his apologies on behalf of CSU and how he has great admiration for Shulga and the Utah State program.
Ultimately I’m happy that CSU has tried to make it clear that this community does not accept or tolerate what some of the students allegedly yelled out. It really does not matter if the broadcast audio is clear or not, if it’s even a question then the right move is to condemn poor behavior.
It’s disappointing that a night that should be remembered for the special work the team has done with local cancer patients will be overshadowed by this whole ordeal. I also think it’s a bummer that a mostly awesome crowd of students will get dragged for the actions of a small minority. That’s a part of life though. Sometimes all it takes is one or two jerks to ruin everybody’s night.
Hopefully this can serve as a reminder that some things in life are off limits — even in the heat of competition. And that while we do want to be known for being a hostile home environment for visiting teams, it needs to be due to the volume and enthusiasm of the students, not the vulgarity.