North Carolina women’s basketball head coach Sylvia Hatchell repeatedly made racially offensive remarks and tried to force players to compete through serious injuries, The Washington Post reported Thursday evening.
Hatchell and three of her assistants were placed on paid administrative leave Monday as the university launched an internal review of “the culture of the women’s basketball program and the experience of our student-athletes.” In announcing the review, the school cited “issues raised by student-athletes and others,” but did not specify what those issues were.
The Post report, which cited six parents of current UNC players and another person with knowledge of the investigation, dates the complaints against Hatchell back to the 2017-18 season. During that campaign, Hatchell suggested that the players perform a “war chant” to honor an assistant coach, Tracey Williams-Johnson, with partial Native American ancestry. The report adds that after a win over Howard this past season, Hatchell told her team they would be “hanged from trees with nooses” if they put in a similar performance at their next game against Louisville.
The paper said that parents who were told of Hatchell’s remark differed in their recollection of the coach’s precise words, but agreed that they included “noose” and “tree.” Hatchell’s lawyer, Wade Smith, told the Post that his client said: “They’re going to take a rope and string us up, and hang us out to dry.”
“There is not a racist bone in her body,” Smith said. “A very high percentage of the people who have played for her and who love her are African-American women. She is a terrific coach, and a truly world-class human being.”
According to the Post, parents who met with UNC administrators on March 28 also raised concerns about situations where three players — junior forward Emily Sullivan, freshman guard Kennedy Boyd and redshirt junior guard Stephanie Watts — suffered injuries that were not treated properly. In Sullivan’s case, the paper said. she waited nearly two years to have surgery on an injured shoulder after team doctor Harry Stafford told her the Tar Heels needed her to play and assured her she didn’t need an operation.
The parents of Boyd, who suffered a concussion in an exhibition game prior to this season, reportedly claimed that Hatchell asked their daughter “if she’d had a concussion or if she had brain damage after the freshman missed several weeks of practice. Watts injured her knee during a game in February but was repeatedly put through workouts by Stafford and team trainers in the hope of getting her healthy for postseason play. Prior to an ACC Tournament game, with Watts still hurting, Hatchell allegedly told the player that WNBA scouts were in the crowd and they would “want to see if she can play through pain.”
The Raleigh News & Observer reported Thursday night that Boyd and Watts have entered their names in the NCAA’s transfer portal, indicating they are looking at other schools. The paper reported that Sullivan had also put her name in the portal this past February, but later withdrew it. Redshirt sophomore guard Jocelyn Jones and redshirt junior guard Destinee Walker have also put their names in the transfer portal, the paper reported.
“As we announced on Monday, we have a review underway to assess the culture of our women’s basketball program and the experience of our student-athletes,” university spokesman Steve Kirschner told Fox News in an email when asked about the report. “We will have no further comment until the review is complete and we have all the facts. Carolina is committed to the well-being of our student-athletes and to ensuring that they have the best experience possible and in and outside of competition.”
Hatchell did not respond to requests for comment from Fox News but said in a statement Monday that she would cooperate fully with the review.
“I’ve had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball,” Hatchell said. “My goal has always been to help them become the very best people they can be, on the basketball court and in life.
“I love each and every one of the players I’ve coached and would do anything to encourage and support them. They are like family to me. I love them all.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
By Samuel Chamberlain