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Local civil rights leaders threaten national boycott of ASU athletics following 'offensive' fraternity party

A group of local civil rights leaders publicly expressed their displeasure towards Tau Kappa Epsilon's MLK-themed fraternity party by threatening further action if their demands aren't met.

An Instagram image from TKE's controversial MLK-themed party.
An Instagram image from TKE's controversial MLK-themed party.

Local civil rights leaders held a press conference on the downtown campus of Arizona State Tuesday afternoon to express their concerns about the handling of the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity party over the weekend.

The group expressed demands and included an ultimatum to hold a national boycott of Sun Devil Athletics as well as withhold funds from the renovation of Sun Devil Stadium project if the demands were not met.

"If Dr. (Michael) Crow doesn't meet with us ... we’re going to call for a national boycott on the Sun Devil athletic program and do everything that we can to halt the inflow of money for the construction [and] the remodeling of that stadium," said Rev. Jarrett Maupin of the group ministers for racial, social and economic justice. "And it’s certainly in our power to do it."

The TKE fraternity held a Martin Luther King Jr. themed party over the weekend in which members dressed in baggy clothing, threw up gang signs and drank from watermelon cups. Many pictures from the party ended up on social media with the hashtag "blackout for MLK."

"It’s really simple," Maupin said, who confirmed Rev. Jesse Jackson has already signed off on a potential boycott. "Most of the players are African-American, most of the booster clubs rely on leading cooperations and I don’t think that major businesses are going to like the fact that ASU keeps a fraternity on board that makes a mockery out of Martin Luther King Jr.

"I’m sure we can chase money away for a football stadium," said Maupin

The group listed three demands from Arizona State and rejected much notion of compromise. First, it wants the TKE fraternity permanently banned from Arizona State. Second, the leaders are calling for "any and all of the students who organized this or participated in it or promoted it or sponsored it to be expelled from Arizona State University." Finally, the group called for more African-American teachers at Arizona State and further racism training for ASU employees.

"I know Arizona State University wants to have winning teams [but] the way life is in America today, without African-Americans on your team, you're liable not to have winning teams," Dr. Luther Holland, the chair of the First Institutional Baptist Church Community Development Cooperation said.

While Arizona State has already suspended chapter operations for TKE and promised "additional action," Holland went on to call out Crow for not doing more:

"So continue to sit in the president’s office, continue not to do anything, allow racism, and we will have a national campaign to remind our young brothers and sisters that there are other places to go to school, to play ball, football, basketball, there are other places to play golf there are other places to play tennis. Yes, its nice here the weather is great but we have a sister state and a sister state and another sister state right close by that can do the same thing."

Maupin also stated he has a meeting with John Kavanagh, a member of the Arizona legislature house of representatives appropriations committee to start up an independent investigation into the incident because he does not "trust ASU to be as transparent as they should."

"What we're calling for is swift action, complete action, and action now," Holland said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Maupin had received a direct email from Dr. Crow of roughly 300 to 500 words in length but was not satisfied with the response.

"We’re asking that Dr. Crow give us a response, an immediate response, not to slide this under the rug and let this go away" said attorney and NAACP member Benjamin Taylor.

The deadline for Dr. Crow to meet with the group was "immediately" according to Taylor but later added that they hoped to hear from him by the end of this week.

"The ball is in President Crow’s hands and hopefully he wants to be a team player and take some strong actions so that we can do everything we can to prevent something like this, something so terrible something so evil from happening again," Maupin said.

TKE was just reinstated in December after being suspending for a fight with another fraternity in November of 2012 and was on probation at the time of this incident.

Arizona State has already made it clear that the fraternity party was not sanctioned by the university or held on campus. The university already has plans to meet with national TKE organization and also released this official statement Monday:

"ASU has one of the most diverse student bodies of any major university in the country, and it is unfortunate that a few misguided individuals held an offensive party at a time when ASU, the state and the nation are celebrating Dr. King's achievements and legacy. The university will not tolerate this kind of behavior."

The plans to renovate Sun Devil Stadium were unveiled just last week and are scheduled to start in 2015.