A private Christian university in Spokane, WA is under fire after members of the women’s soccer team dressed up in blackface in an attempt to honor The Jackson 5, Fox 13 reports.

Instagram Photo

The photo caught the attention of many on Instagram on Monday, after the athletes from Whitworth University appeared as the legendary group at an unaffiliated team event. Dressed in afros, bell bottoms, and blackface, the women are all smiles in the now-infamous Instagram photo. Following the large amount of attention the picture received on the internet, the women have all been suspended from an upcoming match.

Head coach Jael Hagerott defended his players — to an extent. He said the athletes indeed crossed a line, but didn’t mean to offend people with their outfits. Dr. Lawrence Burnley, associate vice president, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and assistant professor of history, shared the same sentiments.

Dr. Burnley, who is Black, says he talked to the students about the photos and many of them didn’t know the cultural context behind blackface.

“In talking to some students, they have shared with me, personally, that they were not aware of the history of blackface,” Burnley said. “Now, for some that’s hard to believe. How can you not be aware of this history? And if, in fact, you are not – and I believe some people quite frankly are not – what does that say about [our] educational system? The students I spoke with who are involved in this are contrite, they are remorseful, and we don’t believe there was intention to hurt or harm but again, and I want this to be clear, it does not diminish the impact that it is having on people both here and beyond Whitworth’s campus, so persons need to be held responsible for that.”

Dr. Burnley also released a statement about the ordeal on Facebook Tuesday afternoon:

This excuse has been used before by celebrities and regular folks, but depicting people of color doesn’t have to come down to pulling out the bronzer or tar-like makeup to pay homage. Friends and classmates of the ladies agreed that their enthusiasm for dressing like the late Michael Jackson and his brothers, and their ignorance of the origins of blackface, clouded their judgement.

The administration says further efforts will be taken to educate the women about the racial insensitivity of their actions.

SOURCE: FOX 13, Facebook | VIDEO CREDIT: YouTube | PHOTO CREDIT: Instagram

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