April V. Taylor
Pace University football captain and quarterback Tyler Owens has been suspended pending an investigation into a photo posted on Snapchat of him draped in a Confederate flag making a Nazi salute. The photo was captioned “The grand wizard,” which is a reference to the leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Pace University President Steven J. Friedman called the photo “highly offensive” in an email to the school. Friedman also reported that Owens had been stripped of his role and “will not participate in University football activities pending the outcome of the investigation.”
Friedman went on to say, “The photograph is highly offensive and contrary to the values of diversity, inclusiveness, and embracing the ethnic and cultural differences among students, faculty, and staff that are deeply held at Pace University and its Athletics Department. That is especially true at this time when states throughout the country are recognizing the symbolic offensiveness of displaying the Confederate flag and the importance of accepting those with different backgrounds is being sorely tested by the refugee crisis in Europe.”
According to the Journal News in Westchester, the picture was sent to the Pace Chronicle by a group of Black students and athletes at which point the university became aware of it. Snapchat is an application where messages are supposed to disappear within seconds. The email to the Pace Chronicle from the group of students stated, “As African Americans and Pace University students we are extremely offended and believe something should be done about this.”
Not all students found the photo offensive. Black Student Union member Chrystal Azatassou told the Pace Chronicle, “People do stupid things for stupid reasons. If it does turn out that Owens had malicious intentions, then the BSU will make sure justice is served.” Former teammate Addison Casey also supported Owens, stating, “[Mr. Owens has] done so much for me. People are taking a joke out of context, it was just a couple of guys messing around, they saw [clothing], and jokingly put it on.”