University of Portland officials today removed senior tennis player Goutham Sundaram from the men’s tennis roster after his misogynistic remarks offended many in the crowd Sunday night during the university’s fifth annual athletic banquet, the Wally Awards.
An account of the evening first appeared at The Beacon, the school’s student newspaper, in an opinion piece by its news managing editor Olivia Sanchez, who attended the event as a member of the crew team.
Sundaram, a senior computer science major who graduated from Portland’s Lincoln High School, served as emcee for the event.
Sundaram told the audience that his main goal in college did not involve academic or athletic pursuits, but rather getting white women to sleep with brown men—and specifically, him.
“Go brown and turn your frown upside down,” Sundaram repeatedly said, according to Sanchez’s op-ed.
Although the audience initially laughed, many of the attendees, including Sanchez, former Portland Trail Blazer and UP’s current head basketball coach Terry Porter, and Porter’s sons, who play for the Pilots, got out of their seats and left the event.
Still, Sundaram continued, at one point saying, “Gandhi didn’t fast for 20 days so that I could get to America and not sleep with white women.”
Sundaram also told a story of how his parents met in India, then migrated to the United States. According to Sanchez, Sundaram specified that his parents’ immigration journey wouldn’t be worth it if he didn’t “hook up with a white girl.”
The event was mandatory for all UP athletes, and was supposed to be a celebration of their hard work during the school year.
But, instead, Sanchez says, Sundaram turned the Beauchamp Recreation and Wellness Center into a “locker room.”
Sundaram’s words lingered throughout the room making attendees, especially female athletes, uncomfortable. Organizers said Sundaram did not tell anyone about his remarks prior getting up the stage.
“Forget being an athlete for a moment,” Sanchez wrote. “As a student at the University of Portland, and as a journalist compelled to hold power to account, I am deeply disappointed in our university president, our senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator.”
The individuals Sanchez mentioned remained seated in the front row, and did not act against what Sanchez termed the “violent misogyny” in Sundaram’s speech.
“The way in which Sundaram glorified ‘white women’ as the ultimate prize was not only grossly sexist but bent towards a common racist culture of holding up white women as the standard, and women of color as second rung, event among men of color,” Sanchez wrote.
After The Beacon published Sanchez’s article Monday, University President Fr. Mark Poorman—one of those who sat through Sundaram’s remarks—sent a campus-wide email a few hours later regarding the ceremony.
“These offensive statements do not reflect us, and they do not reflect our mission,” Poorman said in his email. “This important tradition was the purpose of the evening, and I did not want what happened on stage to take away from the recognition of others in attendance. I apologize to all of you that this occurred.”
Men’s tennis head coach Aaron Gross, later that evening, also got up on the podium and apologized for Sundaram’s comments. According to Sanchez, several athletes later reported that Gross said, “I love you Goutham, I love you, and I know that you tried your best, but that doesn’t reflect the view of the tennis team.”
In a conversation with the athletics department Monday morning, Poorman said in his email that the department has already taken steps to hold Sundaram accountable by removing him from the roster.
WW reached out to Sundaram, but received no response.
The Beacon later reported that Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator Karen Peters had sent out an email to student athletes, coaches and athletic staff, which includes an apology from Sundaram.
“I would like to address what happened at the Wally’s last night,” Sundaram said. “I want to apologize for taking away from the focus of the night. The night is meant to celebrate the excellence of student athletes and I would like to apologize if I made any people uncomfortable.”