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Worcester Wolves torn apart in 'racism' row
FIVE sacked Worcester Wolves basketball players have for the first time revealed details of the “racist” rant they say was hurled at them by the former team coach.
I should have recognised a long time ago that you white guys are not tough enough.Chuck Evans
The players are now considering take legal action after they were sacked for threatening to go on strike over the incident. Former head coach Chuck Evans has admitted discussing race with the team and has since resigned, although he denies being racist.
It is the first time details of the alleged two-hour exchange, which led to the British Basketball League club having to postpone all their December games, have been made public.
According to notes taken by the players immediately following the post-match analysis session on Sunday, November 22, Evans, a black American, blamed the team’s recent poor form on there being too many white players.
He is quoted in the players’ notes as saying: “I think I have figured out the problem with our team... looking at the last two teams that we have lost to Newcastle and Chester, they were mainly black guys and I just think we have too many white guys on the team who are not tough enough and too soft.”
He is quoted as going on to say: “I should have recognised a long time ago that you white guys are not tough enough. I’m just calling it like I see it.”
And he is even alleged to have added: “I’m gonna get fired at some point, whether it’s from here, or my next job, so if I am, at least I’m gonna say how I feel about this.”
Following the incident, six of the Wolves professional players – former player-coach Skouson Harker, Nerijus Kalikonavas, Vidmantas Uzkuratitis, Evaldas Zabas, who are all white, as well as Chey Christie and Randy George, two of the team’s black players – were sacked by owner Roger Clarke for threatening to strike. Uzkuratitis has since withdrawn his threat. It is not yet known if he will return to the team, but he continues to study at the university. Evans was handed a final written warning and forced to apologise to the players. But the squad refused to play for him and he resigned.
The club based at the University of Worcester has since appointed a new head coach – Paul James – and is in the process of rebuilding its squad for the new year. Your Worcester News has received copies of the players’ notes from the showdown signed by five of the sacked players as well as assistant coach Chris Mayes. Speaking exclusively to your Worcester News, Canadian-born Harker said: “He (Evans) compared our team to a couple of other top teams and felt that we had too many white players and that is what he said – it got worse from there.”
Kalikonavas added: “It went on for two-to-three hours stepping over the line constantly. He didn’t care if he got fired. I don’t know why he had lost it like that. It wasn’t like one or two remarks, it went on and on.” And Zabas said: “It was a disgrace, I’m angry and shocked by anything that was said.” Christie said: “What he said wasn’t directed at me, but I put myself in the position, if somebody had said that to me I would have been upset. It came down to everyone coming together and taking a stand.”
Evans has since insisted that he despises racism, but has not denied that he made the comments. He said: “My intentions were to have a discussion on race in England basketball.
“I thought professionals could handle a closed-door discussion on race but I was terribly wrong and the discussion got out of hand. “I have accepted responsibility for my actions, apologised and resigned as coach to protect the integrity of the club.
“I despise racism or anyone associated with being racist. Beyond that, I have moved on with my life and have no further comment concerning this unfortunate incident.”
The sacked players have consulted England Basketball, which referred the matter back to the club, and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and have consulted a lawyer.
Having formed at the start of the millenium, Worcester Wolves began life in the National Basketball League. Successive promotions soon saw them in the English Basketball League by 2002 and within five years they were elected to the British Basketball League. During their first season in the BBL the University of Worcester-based side finished bottom, but in 2007 they handed over the reins to former Birmingham Bullets player-coach Skouson Harker.
He spent two years in charge of the Wolves guiding them into the play-offs in his first season before being replaced by Chuck Evans.