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UCA cheer team faces allegations of racism amid coaching change

There's a new head coach and allegations of racism on the University of Central Arkansas cheerleading team— with major developments that have come out recently.

CONWAY, Ark. — There's a new head coach and allegations of racism on the University of Central Arkansas cheerleading team. On Monday morning, the UCA cheer team was suspended. 

In a Facebook post, UCA athletics released a statement that said in part that they were "looking at a reorganization" of the program.

Athletes found out they would likely not be competing at their spring national competition, and an uproar later followed online.

Though just a few hours later, things changed.

Later Monday afternoon, athletic director Brad Teague posted again that an alumnus had stepped up to coach the team through nationals— but some cheerleaders said that the team's problems are far from solved.

Caleb Watson has cheered at UCA for two years and explained that he's one of many who have been looking to quit.

"Last semester, a couple of people [said] some racial slurs, and my cheer coach just laughed at them and just brushed them off... We was tore down all semester by all these hateful words and racial slurs that was thrown at us and fell upon deaf ears... I just don't think that's okay for a coach to be able to stay in a position and lead," Watson said.

Watson filed a formal "Diversity Equity or Civility Concern" last fall, which was an investigation that UCA said was addressed with sensitivity training.

"They just made us go to a class. Two classes on how not to be racist. And Diversity and Inclusion, they said that everyone deserves a second chance," Watson added.

A spokesperson said the school was made aware during Watson's report last fall that the team's culture "needed some adjustment."

Watson shared that he's gotten dozens of letters from current and former UCA cheer athletes with similar discrimination concerns— and he is now considering legal action.

"It's not just about me, it's about my people. It's about everybody of African American descent or any minorities in general," Watson added.

UCA said they have not been made aware of any complaints other than the investigation that led to the training.

They also explained that the former head coach was not removed from the team, and will continue working in other related programs through the semester, but is no longer working directly with cheerleaders.

Watson said that though the new coach, who is black, is a step in the right direction, he still wants to see more accountability from UCA.

We sent in additional questions, and the school said more information should come out over the next few weeks.


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