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Iowa apologizes to Badgers wrestler who was target of slurs

February 8, 2022 GMT

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa athletic department apologized Tuesday to a Wisconsin wrestler who was the target of racially insensitive remarks during a weekend meet at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Austin Gomez tweeted Tuesday that a racial slur was directed toward him from the stands as he left the mat following his 3-2 decision over Iowa’s Vince Turk in the 149-pound match. Gomez said he could not identify the person who used the slur.

“The University of Iowa denounces any act of hatred and is committed to providing a safe and equitable environment,” the Iowa athletic department said in a statement, adding that the administration apologized to Gomez and let him know it was investigating.

“Any individual found in violation of our fan behavior policy is subject to being banned from attending future Hawkeye athletic events,” the statement said.

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Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh said he was “disappointed and angered” that Gomez and his family were recipients of vulgar and racially insensitive language.

“This behavior has no place in the Big Ten and college athletics as a whole,” McIntosh said. “It is totally unacceptable. We have been in contact with Austin, his parents and the Iowa athletics administration and I am thankful that our colleagues at Iowa are investigating the incident. I appreciate the Gomez family having the courage to bring this to light. They have our complete support.”

Last month, a Wisconsin fan was caught on video making vulgar comments and racist gestures at a men’s basketball game at Northwestern. That fan was identified and barred from purchasing tickets to future Wisconsin athletic events through the school’s ticket platform.

Gomez, the Badgers wrestler, said he always has enjoyed competing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and still does.

“Iowa fans are some of the most loyal and passionate fans in the country who will back their team no matter what and I love that,” Gomez tweeted. “But there comes a time where certain fans (not all fans) cross a line that doesn’t need to be crossed.”

Gomez, who wrestled for Iowa State from 2017-20, said he had a similar experience when he competed for the Cyclones at Carver-Hawkeye.

He indicated he could laugh off most heckling but not racial slurs or verbal abuse of his family.

“Hopefully there is action taken so other student-athletes and families don’t have to have the same experience in the future,” Gomez said.