St. John Fisher Cheerleading Squad Suspended For Meek Mill Rap
St. John Fisher College's holiday break was just hours old when two of its students were caught trying to steal a statue of revered abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
A witness said the two white students spouted racial epithets as they stumbled drunkenly down Alexander Street before being arrested by Rochester police.
Then, just three days before the end of the college's break, an 11-second video surfaced that featured white Fisher cheerleaders singing along with a popular rap song by Meek Mill. The portion of the song shouted out in the video included three uses of the n-word and a crude term for the female anatomy.
College president Gerard Rooney announced Friday that cheerleader activities were suspended indefinitely while officials looked into the video, which Rooney said featured "some members" of the squad. Disciplinary action was possible, he said.
The two students charged in December for trying to steal the Douglass statue were suspended from school, Fisher said at the time.
The cheerleader incident immediately became the latest touchstone in an on-going community discussion and debate of racial issues.
It comes on the heels of the highly publicized December statue case, and then the firing a week ago of WHEC (Channel 10) weatherman Jeremy Kappell for uttering a racially offensive word as he mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a broadcast.
Mayor Lovely Warren, who publicly criticized Kappell before he was discharged, said late last week that "there is a great racial divide in our city and we need to work on moving forward and work on building on Dr. King’s legacy."
More:Mayor Lovely Warren urges healing after Jeremy Kappell controversy
Just as some condemned Kappell's language as racist while others said it was a simple mistake, people reacted in opposing ways to the cheerleader video.
Current and former Fisher students, as well as others in the community, condemned the use of racial epithets and other crude language by the singing cheerleaders.
Others jumped to the defense of the cheerleaders, saying all they were merely singing the lyrics of a popular song.
Numerous comments pro and con highlighted a point that has been made many times before — that it may (or may not) be acceptable to African-Americans to use the n-word to other black people, but it isn't acceptable for white people to do so. Meek Mill, whose song the cheerleaders were singing to, is African-American.
The video also is the latest example of people using off-color or offensive language in private, either jokingly or not, and suffering the consequences when their statements are made public. It's an especially common practice among younger people.
Shortly after he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, quarterback Josh Allen spent days trying to explain teenage tweets which used the n-word. An all-star major league baseball pitcher, Josh Hader, endured criticism last summer when similar tweets from his past were made public.
A student at the State University College at Plattsburgh quit school last year amid controversy over her racist language in a Snapchat post became public. The student claimed she and her friends used such language in fun.
The Fisher cheerleader video apparently was first captured on Snapchat, a social app whose claim to fame is that its posts disappear not long after they're made. But there are ways to preserve posts, and someone apparently did that in this case.
A Twitter user who appears to be an African-American student at Fisher got a copy of the preserved video. In tweets he posted Thursday evening, he hinted at "more racism at Fisher ... not the statue" but didn't immediately make the video itself available.
Later that night, he did. College officials apparently saw it the next day. By Saturday afternoon, it had been viewed more than 39,000 times.
The Democrat and Chronicle is not posting the video or identifying the person who made it public. He did not respond to attempts by the newspaper to reach him.
As the newspaper reported Friday evening, a "clean" version of "Dreams and Nightmares" was part of the mix of songs played during warm-ups at Fisher basketball games. The song was played partway through before a game Friday night, but then halted.
A member of the team later told the Democrat and Chronicle the song was pulled at the request of college officials.
The song aired before Fisher games was the version edited for radio play, with about 50 n-words, curse words and other crude terms deleted.
College officials did not respond to a question from the Democrat and Chronicle about the propriety of the team using that song, or about other matters related to the cheerleader video.
Fisher, located off East Avenue in Pittsford, has been the scene of several other politically charged incidents in recent years. In December 2016, racist fliers were posted on the campus, and anti-immigrant fliers were circulated a year ago.
The college has taken a number of steps to dissuade students from exclusionary attitudes, and sponsored an anti-racism lecture this spring.