Arizona university asks football fans to shun blackface

Tue Oct 6, 2015 6:32pm EDT
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By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona State University officials have asked football fans to refrain from painting their faces black for a so-called blackout home game this weekend after several fans last year caused an uproar by attending the event in minstrel-style blackface.

For the annual game, which will be held on Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona State University players will wear their all-black uniform and fans are encouraged to arrive similarly dressed.

The team adopted black as one of its color schemes in 2011, and the blackout event is tied to that.

In a statement on Monday, university officials said fans should continue to wear black, but asked them not to paint their faces any color.

"As an inclusive and forward-thinking university, it is important for us to foster an environment in which everyone feels safe and accepted," the officials said in a posting on the school's athletic department website.

Fans with their faces painted black drew widespread attention during last year's game at Arizona State, a multi-campus university based in Tempe that has more than 64,000 undergraduate students. African-Americans account for nearly 5 percent of the university's undergraduates.

Blackface was often used in minstrel shows in the 19th and early 20th centuries featuring white performers portraying African-Americans, often in a degrading manner. Many people consider it to be offensive.

The Black and African Coalition at Arizona State University had called for a complete ban on any face-painting at the team's football games. But university officials did not go beyond asking fans to voluntarily stop the practice.   Continued...