Members of the North Carolina A&T State University (N.C. A&T) Blue Squad cheer program protested the mishandling of a sexual assault complaint made by a teammate recently, by sitting out of performances and wearing black at basketball games in recent weeks.
One member of the cheerleading squad called for the removal of the cheerleading coaches in early February after a freshman cheerleader and marketing student, who will remain unnamed, reported a rape that the coaches did not tell N.C. A&T’s Title XIII coordinator about.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of any allegation of sexual assault and take such allegations very seriously,” said a statement published on the N.C. Aggie Cheer Twitter and Instagram on Feb. 1, 2019. “Privacy laws preclude the university from publicly discussing such matters involving current or former students.”
The cheerleader who reported the assault identified herself as the victim by posting a letter on social media that called attention to the actions made by her coaches. The letter identified the alleged rapist as a senior at N.C. A&T, who is a member of the Blue and Gold Marching Machine.
“Time will tell, but I do stand firm on the coaches staff at A&T needs to be fired,” the victim said to WXII-Channel 12 news.
Although the cheerleading squad sat out of basketball games and wore black to games in protest of the management of the case, the victim reported bullying by other cheerleaders. Some other members of the squad, however, voiced their support for the victim on social media.
“We’re delighted to see students always who want to step up and share their thoughts and perspectives,” said Todd Simmons, an N.C. A&T representative, to WXII-Channel 12 news.
The cheerleaders also stopped practicing after the assault began gaining traction on social media, as Athletics Director Earl Hilton wanted to give the students a chance to step away from the scrutiny surrounding the case.
“We’re just concerned with all of the heightened publicity and attention out there. It wouldn’t be the best thing to put them in front of a crowd right now,” said Athletics department spokesman Brian Holloway, according to the News & Record. “We’re concerned for their overall welfare.”
An investigation into the the crime was opened on Nov. 18, 2018, after university police reported the rape to Greensboro police. Privacy laws prevent N.C. A&T from discussing the matter, according to Tiffany Jones, the school’s Director of Media Relations.
“The University will continue to pursue investigations regarding any claim and provide care and assistance to any victim of an assault in our community, as well as work with authorities to bring perpetrators to justice,” said Jones in an email to the News & Record. The @ncataggiecheer Instagram echoed this in the Feb. 1 post.