A handful of fans wore black-painted faces to a September "blackout" football game at Sun Devil Stadium

Dianna M. Náñez, The Republic | azcentral.com 9:43 a.m. MST October 17, 2014


Arizona State University officials on Thursday still would not say whether Sun Devils fans who show up to athletic events in face paint will be asked to remove it or will be barred entry to games.

ASU is scheduled to play Stanford on Saturday in a Pac-12 football game at Sun Devil Stadium.

Kevin Galvin, an ASU spokesman, told The Republic on Thursday that the university had nothing to add to its statements earlier this week that students are being discouraged from using face paint of any color following an uproar over a handful of students who painted their faces black for a September "blackout" football game.

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ASU had hosted a "blackout" promotion in which the university encouraged fans to wear black to match ASU's special alternate uniforms. Fans are encouraged to wear maroon and gold, the school colors, to other spirit-themed games.

Students who wore the black face paint told The Republic they did not mean to offend anyone.

Some students at the Tempe ASU campus said Thursday they agreed black face paint is not a sign of school spirit. Others said stopping students from wearing face paint would not solve the problem of racial insensitivity.

African-American leaders Thursday said university officials must act quickly to create greater cultural awareness on one of the nation's largest campuses, with nearly 82,000 students.

On social media, some fans were outraged by what they viewed as a knee-jerk reaction and political correctness in ASU's statement that it is discouraging face paint of any color at games.

Students with the Black African Coalition, who had asked ASU last week to ban students from painting their face black to games, said they were being attacked for taking a stance.

"There's been a lot of threats," ASU student Kyle Denman said. "People saying our coalition should be disbanded because it's racist. They called us buffoons. It's been really bad."

Denman, speaking as an individual and not in his role as president of the Black African Coalition, said the group has a meeting with ASU officials Tuesday and expects to release a statement on ASU's actions, as well as the student group's call for mandatory cultural-awareness courses.

Denman said the coalition's statement is being reviewed by ASU officials, who must approve any communications made to the media.

On campus, some students were confused by ASU's actions. Some believed that ASU banned the use of face paint. The university's official statement said that it discourages the use.

"I feel like ASU banning the use of face paint in the game is taking it too far. You almost kind of wonder if it's just them saying, 'You're looking for a reason to be offended, so we're going take it a step farther so that others become offended at you and then blame you for the issue we're having,'" said Robert Nichols, a 20-year-old film-production student.

Nichols said many students lack cultural awareness. He said he believes that students were likely to ignore lessons taught in mandatory classes.

"Consider the fact that most people who go here probably have no idea what blackface is," he said.

Some students were upset that ASU addressed concerns about fans painting their faces black by discouraging all face paint.

"I mean, I get not painting your face black; that's offensive," said Krista Letz, an 18-year-old business communications major. "But I don't think it's fair to ban all face paint."

ASU officials told The Republic last week that they monitor students' clothing and signs through the student code of conduct. Officials said that they often have to tell students they cannot enter the game wearing profane T-shirts at rivalry games against the University of Arizona.

"It's not the paint that's the problem, it's the insensitivity itself," said Abraham Nurhssien, 20, a psychology and sociology major.

Leaders of the Valley's African-American community last week also had called for a ban on students wearing black-painted faces to games.

Don Logan, a diversity expert who in 2004 as Scottsdale's diversity director was the target of a mail-bombing attack by White supremacists, said that ASU is in a difficult position and that any action it takes will be scrutinized. He agreed that ASU needed to institute cultural-awareness courses, given recent racial insensitivity on campus.


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