Duke apologizes, removes lacrosse photo from website

lkeeley@newsobserver.comNovember 13, 2012 

— The Duke athletic department issued an apology Monday and removed a photo from its official website showing a women’s lacrosse player dressed in blackface at a team Halloween party.

The team held the party and costume contest at head coach Kerstin Kimel’s house. The junior class dressed as characters from “The Little Rascals” movie, and Taylor Virden painted her face black as part of her Buckwheat costume.

A picture of Virden and the team’s six other juniors was posted last Tuesday along with a blog post written by junior Emma Tucci. The picture was changed Monday morning to one not showing Virden, focusing instead on four other juniors.

“The Duke Women’s Lacrosse program celebrates Halloween with an annual gathering,” Kimel said. “This year, some of our costume choices were insensitive and entirely inappropriate. No offense was intended, but that does not matter because we should have realized how these choices would be viewed by those outside of our program. On behalf of our coaching staff and our student-athletes, we apologize to anyone we may have offended and understand while we believed we were making decisions in good fun, we should have been much more sensitive to the implications of our actions.”

Duke assistant sports information director Leslie Gaber said neither Kimel nor Virden had any comments beyond the statement.

Sean Palmer, the assistant director of Duke’s Mary Lou Williams Center For Black Culture, said a student made him aware of the picture Monday afternoon. He said he had no comment.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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