The University of Missouri Athletic Department is apologizing for a tweet it says was meant to celebrate diversity but was instead criticized as insensitive.
The tweet posted Wednesday included graphics of three student athletes and a staff member. Two are black and two are white.
The graphics featuring the white athletes highlighted their career ambitions. Gymnast Chelsey Christensen’s said, “I am a future doctor.” Swimmer CJ Kovac’s said, “I am a future corporate financer.”
Staff member Chad Jones-Hicks’ post said, “I value equality.” Track and field athlete Arielle Mack’s said “I am an African American Woman.”
The post was criticized on social media for defining Mack and Jones-Hicks by their race instead of their goals and accomplishments.
The athletic department deleted the tweet Wednesday night and apologized.
“Earlier we made a mistake when we posted a graphic about our student athletes. We apologize. Our intent was to provide personal information about our students, but we failed. We listened and removed the post. This video better represents our intent to celebrate our diversity,” the Athletic Department said in its tweet.
The video included a longer version of Mack’s quote, which said “I am an African American woman, a sister, a daughter, a volunteer and a future physical therapist.”
Mack told CNN that she supports the athletic department and liked the original post.
“When I saw the post I thought that it came out really nice, and that it was a nice representation of who I am at the onset of my identity,” she said in an email. “To most people’s surprise I actually was not offended and I still am not offended.”
She said that she was asked to finish the statement “I am more than a student athlete, I am…”
“That is the first identity I gave in my statements and I didn’t see anything wrong with how they presented it,” she said.
Mack said she understood why the athletic department apologized, but thought that officials were hard on themselves.
“They called themselves a ‘failure,’ and I didn’t think it was that at all,” she said. “We just didn’t have malicious intent when reviewing the posts so when it came out holistically we couldn’t have known that this would be the reaction.”
Designed for ‘Inclusion Week’
The graphics were created for the NCAA’s Inclusion Week, a social media campaign designed to generate discussion and emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion in student-athletes’ success.
Jones-Hicks told CNN that friends showed him the tweet after it had been taken down.
“When I saw it, I knew why people were going to be upset, but I also know that it was a misunderstanding because of the way the tweet went out,” he said. “I know the type of people we have in the athletic department and they are all good people.”
He said the tweet did look bad and he understands why people were upset.
“People make mistakes and I know the people who run our Twitter account feel bad about what happen. People make mistakes especially on social media. They made a mistake and they will learn from it,” he said.
Jones-Hicks said he’s worked in Missouri’s ticket office for seven months and volunteers as a mentor for student athletes. He says it’s one of the best places he’s worked because of how much the staff members care about the school and its student athletes.
University of Missouri Chancellor Alex Cartwright and Director of Athletics Jim Sterk planned to meet on Friday with student leaders, an athletic department spokesman told CNN.