My name is Anthony Villamagna, and I am a Columbia football player who will be graduating this year with many of you. In light of the recent events involving Chad Washington, I would like to present my own perspective on some of the issues surrounding the football team that have arisen recently.
My views are not reflective of the football team, the coaching staff, the athletics department, or any of my teammates. My views should not be treated as those of any group or organization on campus.
I will not comment directly on Chad Washington’s arrest or the circumstances surrounding it. I will not make a judgment on the events of this past weekend until the process of the law has run its course. I reaffirm the stance taken by the Asian American Alliance and many others in the administration and across campus that hate crimes, physical and verbal abuse have absolutely no place at Columbia. Every person has the right to be protected from these acts.
The football team is made up of roughly 100 individuals with widely diverse personal backgrounds. Our political ideologies, extracurricular interests, and personal philosophies differ from person to person. We are not a homogenous group, but rather a collection of individuals connected by their love of football. I was upset and disappointed by some of the tweets posted by my teammates, because, having known many of them for a number of years, I do not feel as if they accurately reflect their beliefs. They were, in my opinion, moments of very poor judgment by people who should have known better. My teammates should be held accountable for what they published, as should any person who would write such comments. I do not share any of the homophobic or racist views expressed in the tweets, nor do I believe they are shared by the majority of Columbia football players.
Much has been made over the “divide” between regular students and student-athletes at Columbia. As a football player, my days were scheduled around football and classes. The overwhelming majority of my time was spent with my teammates. I came to school along with the rest of my teammates before other students to attend our “Camp”, or pre-season practices, for about 14 hours a day every day for two weeks before school started. While other students were bonding at NSOP, I was bonding with my teammates through our mutual suffering. I don’t believe I had my first meaningful interaction with a non-football player until after our season ended around Thanksgiving time. This is mostly my fault—I should have made a greater effort to reach out to my classmates. Since then, I have tried to interact with people outside of my “insular” football group and have made some good friends who are not associated with football or athletics in any way.
I recognize that my gray sweatshirt, which is emblazoned with “COLUMBIA FOOTBALL,” will automatically garner prejudice against me. It is disheartening to hear a professor, upon hearing that I’m a football player on the last day of class, tell me, “You hide it well.” There is animosity on both sides, from athletes and from non-athletes, some deserved, but most of it not. I cannot help but think that a small number of athletes and a small number of students widen the divide for our entire community. I believe that I am both a Columbia student and a Columbia football player. The two need not be mutually exclusive.
In short, some of the public views of a minority of my teammates are utterly shocking to me. I have been with these guys for many hours and I do not believe them to be as bigoted as they appear to be through their comments. That being said, their words are rightfully being condemned across the community, and they are being held accountable for what they said. I hope to impress upon the Columbia community at large that I believe these views are not common in a majority of the football team. This is an eye-opening moment that warrants considerable soul-searching. I hope that it will serve as a learning experience to remind us that everyone is responsible for what they say and that we as a united Columbia community will move forward with greater awareness and greater understanding.
The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics. He is a former member of the varsity football team.
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