Colorado State University has apologized to Utah State’s Ukrainian junior guard after spectators chanted ‘Russia” toward him at a men’s basketball game in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Saturday night.
“We became aware that a small group of individuals in our student section chanted ‘Russia’ at a student-athlete from Utah State, who is from the Ukraine. On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State,” the school wrote in a series of tweets early Sunday.
The chant could be heard when Max Shulga, who is from Kyiv, went to the free throw line late in the game. Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, has been subjected to much of Russia’s violent assault on the country, from intense shelling to the killing of civilians attempting to flee and attacks on civilian settlements.
The chants were “extremely upsetting in the moment,” Shulga said said in a statement, but added that he knew “emotions can run high during competition and people can do and say things they do not really mean.”
“This has been an extremely difficult and challenging year with my family and loved ones so far away and living in constant danger,” Shulga said. “I pray daily for the conflict to come to a close and for peace to be restored for my people in Ukraine.”
As of January 30, at least 7,110 Ukrainian civilians were killed and and 11,547 injured since the invasion began, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“This is a violation of our steadfast belief in the Mountain West Sportsmanship Policy and University Principles of Community,” Colorado State continued. “Every participant, student, and fan should feel welcomed in our venues, and for something like this to have occurred is unacceptable at Colorado State.”
Niko Medved, Colorado State head men’s basketball coach, also apologized on Twitter saying, “I have so much respect for @USUBasketball and Max Shulga. We have amazing fans and students but this is not acceptable! My sincere apologies.”
The Mountain West Conference told CNN in a statement they are “aware of the situation and are currently reviewing the incident.”
Utah State University said in a statement “its athletics department fully supports Max Shulga, and his family, who reside in Ukraine.”
“The incident that occurred during our men’s basketball game at Colorado State last night was inappropriate and unacceptable,” the statement read. “We appreciate the Colorado State administration and basketball staff for not condoning such behavior.”
Shulga finished with nine points and six assists in Utah State’s 88-79 win against Colorado State.
“Colorado State and its fans have apologized and I accept and appreciate the apology,” Shulga said. “I hope you will all join me in praying for peace in Ukraine.”
February 24 will mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine’s front with Russia is at least 810 miles long. It’s moved back and forth as small villages have been suffering a Russian onslaught in the east of the country. There is talk now, from Ukrainian officials, that Russia is planning a major assault in the next few weeks.