Duke asks its crazed basketball fans to boo responsibly

Ardent Duke University basketball fans, hundreds of whom are camping out in a tent to get prime seats for Saturday’s rivalry game against the University of North Carolina, have been the target of diversity efforts , equity and inclusion this year.

The Blue Devils’ student section of fans, called the “Cameron Crazies” for the energy and antics they bring to that tight arena at Duke, heckle opponents with the help of “pep sheets” that include biographical details and scathing commentary. on opposing players. Previous cheer sheets from games against UNC called one of their athletes “the ugliest player in the NCAA” and said of another, “there’s no way he’s allowed to live within 200 yards of a school.”

Suggested chants were sometimes specific (“Caveman” for a player with long hair and a beard) but largely harmless, including “Go, Devils, Go” and “Baby!” Duke fans regularly yell and wave their hands at opposing players when they score the ball.

In a DEI town hall Hosted by Duke’s student government this year, sports fans were encouraged to be responsible in any booing of opposing players and to refrain from name-calling, according to Duke’s student newspaper, The chronic.

The town hall, which included remarks from basketball players and athletic staff members, was intended for students participating in the tent village tradition called Krzyzewskiville, or K-Ville, after former men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski . According to the university, about 100 people attended the event.

David Ntim, a second-year biomedical engineering student who is camping in Krzyzewskiville, did not go to town hall but said he understood their intent.

I definitely see how these conversations could be justified about ‘How do we promote where people are and understand the balance between the boos?’” Ntim said.

In a joint response to emailed questions, Duke and the student line monitors overseeing the tent said the town hall was part of the student group’s “proactive emphasis on DEI in K-Ville to foster a greater sense of community in the traditions surrounding Duke Basketball.” Kyle Serba, spokesman for the Duke men’s basketball program, said the event was not a response to a particular situation involving Duke students.

The university has been on both sides of accusations about unruly crowd behavior.

In 2013, a North Carolina State basketball player said that Duke student section fans had he made fun of his dead grandmother. In 2022, a Duke volleyball player said she had been called racial slurs by fans attending a game at Brigham Young University. In both cases, the host school investigated and said it found no evidence to support the claims.

DEI efforts on college campuses have been polarized, with the University of Florida eliminating all related positions last week.

Danielle Boaz, an associate professor of Africana studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said Duke’s town hall could be a sensitive topic because it could upset certain donors or the purpose of the event could be misinterpreted.

“Unfortunately, even saying, ‘Hey, we shouldn’t be racist’ can be seen as too liberal or too ‘woke,’” Boaz said.

Duke and the line monitors said discussion points at the town hall included the use of inclusive and respectful language, as well as an overview of the rules of conduct in Krzyzewskiville and at the games. They said cheer sheets “are a classic part of our game day traditions” and “have always aligned with our goal of ‘responsible disruption.’”

In recent years, the student government has tried to make Krzyzewskiville more accessible providing financial assistance in the form of camping supplies. The annual cost to attend Duke is approximately $83,000, according to the university website.

Krzyzewskiville, located near Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, started in 1986 when Krzyzewski turned Duke into a basketball giant. He won five national championships in 42 seasons at Duke and retired in 2022.

Some Duke students sleep in tents for weeks before the annual home game against the North Carolina Tar Heels, who play about 10 miles away in Chapel Hill. It’s one of the fiercest rivalries in sports and a cultural moment embedded in the fabric of the state.

“You have to keep a delicate balance because you don’t want DEI to be a spoilsport, but at the same time you want it to be a family experience that the entire community can enjoy,” said Dan Aldridge, professor of Africana studies at Davidson College near Charlotte. .

He continued, “I think for Duke, there’s context because their fans are notoriously nasty.”

The insensitive behavior of professional fans has also been a cause for concern. Native American groups have long protested the ax chopping gesture used at Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Braves games. A soccer match in Las Vegas ended early last year when fans of the Mexican national team broke out in anti-gay chantsand the year before, someone in the Paris crowd He threw a banana at a Brazilian soccer player.

“Sports always becomes a place of tensions and a place where we try to say, ‘Well, this should be outside of politics,’ but it never really is,” Boaz said.