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Sorority blames football players for fight

After a Zeta Phi Beta sorority Homecoming party was broken up by a fight early Oct. 29, the sorority has banned about 15 UTM Skyhawk football players from attending their social events.

Similarly, UTM’s National Pan-Hellenic Council meets today to discuss possible council-wide sanctions against football players. The party, hosted at Java Café on University Street and sponsored by Zeta Phi Beta and Phi Beta Sigma, was running smoothly and without incident until about 15 Skyhawk football players arrived, said India Dean, Zeta Phi Beta president.

Dean said about 20 minutes after the group of football players paid the $5 cover charge for the post-Homecoming party, a full-scale fight broke out.

“It just came out of nowhere. It was between the football team and the Sigmas,” Dean said. “Then everybody started rushing away with two fights going on at the same time.”

Dean said although there were two independent security guards patrolling the Java Café, which the organizations rented for their party, they were unable to subdue the football players, whom she said were “out of control.”

“One of them bumped the DJ booth, which caused the music to stop, but they just kept going until the police got there, and it even took them a while to put down the fight,” Dean said.

Martin Police Department and the UTM Department of Public Safety responded to a 911 call of a fight in progress, after which the crowd dispersed. Only one male, 24-year-old Bobby D. Gilkey, was arrested for disorderly conduct. Gilkey is a UTM alumnus who would not cooperate with police’s orders to stop fighting, according to police reports.

Anthony and Kenya Sawyer, both UTM alumni and former members of Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta, respectively, paid for the party for their organizations.

“After the fight started, people were trying to get away and became victims,” Kenya said. “They got pushed down, hit, ran over.”

She said one female partygoer was sent to the hospital with facial cuts after a football player removed his belt and began swinging it around his head.

Another woman was punched in the face, and several other women were run over after police arrived.

Sawyer, Dean and the rest of the sorority decided to end the party early, and she said she lost about $600 in cover charges and food purchases. The party was not scheduled to end until 3 a.m., and with the change from Daylight Savings Time, the party would have lasted another three hours had the fight not taken place. Sawyer said the party cost her about $1,000, including food.

Immediately after police quelled the fight, Zeta Phi Beta voted to ban the entire football team from attending future social events, but later, the sorority decided to only ban the 15 football players who initiated the fight, Dean said.

“We have to do something to make people feel secure at our parties,” she said. “You got dudes who lift weights hitting girls. That’s crazy.”

But the Oct. 29 brawl was not first violent encounter between football players and NPHC organizations.

Dean said her sorority and others had previously had problems with team members starting fights at greek parties.

Chantal M. Scott, president of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, said UTM football players have caused problems at her organization’s parties too, but Delta Sigma Theta stopped short of banning any football players from events.

Scott disagreed with Zeta Phi Beta’s initial act of banning the entire team, saying, “It’s unfair to punish the entire football team just because of the actions of a few.”

However, Scott did say individual members from any organization should be punished for causing disturbances at any event.

Today, the NPHC will meet to discuss possible council-wide sanctions against football players, including the possibly drafting a letter to be sent to the Department of Athletics condemning fighting.

UTM Director of Greek Life Louis Ragsdale said, “The situation has been addressed by NPHC and is being looked into further.”

He continued, “Further action on the matter is still being discussed.”

The Athletic Department remains unaware of any fight involving football players early Oct. 29, according to Sports Information Director Joe Lofaro.

“We have no knowledge of football players being involved in a fight,” Lofaro said.

He added, “Earlier this fall, members of Greek Life and Athletics met, and they agreed that if fraternities have a closed party, there had to be a guest list. The university had rules for guest lists. Since (the Zeta Phi Beta and Phi Beta Sigma party) was an open party, anybody was invited.”

He went on to say Athletics would address the matter if football players were clearly implicated.

If charges would have been filed against an athlete, Athletics would have taken additional action against the athlete after a final court decision. If charges are brought up through UTM Student Affairs, then the same procedure applies, Lofaro said.