Stanford athletes spray slogans on Building 10 after 36 Sports Strong Rally

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36 Sports Strong, the alumni advocacy group aiming to reinstate Stanford’s 11 discontinued varsity sports, hosted a rally outside of Building 10, home of the office of University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, on Monday. After the rally, athletes used sprayable chalk to write out “You can’t cut me” and other slogans on the building and its arcades.

The rally comes on the day Stanford’s Board of Trustees scheduled a special meeting to reconsider their decision to cut the 11 sports. The board has yet to announce the meeting’s outcome.

The slogans included “KSR” (Keep Stanford Rowing) and “KSW” (Keep Stanford Wrestling), but were painted by members of the men’s wrestling team, freshman wrestler Elijah Cleaver confirmed. He said that he did not know if other athletes were involved in painting it or who brought the chalk.

Later in the afternoon, athletes from the men’s rowing, women’s openweight rowing, synchro and wrestling teams returned — still wearing their black 36 Sports Strong shirts — with bottles of water, buckets, rags and at least one toilet brush to scrub off the chalk.

(Photo: Courtesy of Jeremy Jacobs)

“There’s no scenario where the administration sees this and thinks more highly of who’s involved,” said men’s rowing captain senior Trey Holterman, referring to the people who wrote the slogans. He later added, “As a person, I understand where they’re coming from, but we really just wanted a conversation and this is tone deaf to the work it took to get that conversation.”

The University expressed disappointment at the building’s defacing. 

“While we acknowledge that a group of students did come back to help wash off the paint, this behavior runs counter to the spirit of respectful dialogue and is all the more surprising in that it occurred even as we have been engaged in substantive discussion with 36 Sports Strong to fully understand and explore their perspectives,” a spokesperson wrote. “We are currently assessing whether any permanent damage was done to the buildings and whether any violations occurred which would lead to disciplinary action that would be handled consistent with established university processes.”

While the spraying occurred, Holterman confirmed with one of the athletes spraying the building that they were using chalk, but he didn’t see anyone try to stop the athletes. He and other athletes were in the car riding away from the rally when they became “more frustrated” and decided to come back to help.

UG2 workers arrived with a pressure washer, which the athletes used to continue cleaning the building.

“I feel bad that they marked stuff, but I feel good that this group of people came back to help clean,” said UG2 worker Ramiro Fonseca, one of the two who arrived on the scene.

According to Cleaver, choosing Building 10 specifically “was meant to be symbolic” and was “as peaceful as we could have made it.” The wrestling team had intended to come back after their practice to clean up the chalk, according to Cleaver, but athletes from other teams got there first.

Photo: Makenna Turner

The chalk graffiti has already drawn criticism both from students on social media and from athletes who arrived to clean it up.

“We support the sentiment but not the actions,” said graduate student rower Chris Hull.

Senior synchronized swimmer Sophia Susac, whose team recently won a national championship, added, “I hope that actions like that speak louder than messages like this when it comes to reinstating the teams.”

36 Sports Strong spokesperson Jeremy Jacobs ’06 did not confirm or deny whether the organization organized the chalk graffiti, but sent a statement in support of the rally to The Daily.

“As the photos show, chalk can be cleaned with soap and water. Cutting 11 sports can’t,” Jacobs wrote. “We ask President Tessier-Lavigne and the Board to update the Stanford community on today’s meeting as soon as possible, and to indicate they’ll work with us to reinstate the 11 teams.”

The rally featured testimony from three Stanford athletes who won national titles this year: Synchronized swimming freshman Emmanuella Tchakmakjian, gymnastics junior Matthew Szot, and redshirt sophomore wrestler Shane Griffith. Szot compared the experience of being a Stanford athlete to being part of “one big family.”

“It’s truly truly embarrassing that our administration, our so-called parents of the family, left 11 sports behind,” he said.

The majority of the rally’s 100 attendees wore 36 Sports Strong shirts and demanded that the University reinstate the 11 programs. 

“The remarks from the students speak for themselves. It’s not just the students on the 11 cut sports; students from across the university want these sports reinstated,” Jacobs said.

Jeremy Rubin contributed reporting.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Michael Espinosa '22 is majoring in international relations. He's the head of The Daily's social media team, and editor for the University beat and also occasionally writes for sports, arts, and The Grind. He's the biggest Taylor Swift fan at Stanford and the proudest New Yorker you will ever meet. Contact him at mespinosa 'at' stanforddaily.com.
Erin Woo '21 is The Daily's Vol. 259 Editor-in-Chief. Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, she is studying communications and creative writing at Stanford. She has also reported for The Mercury News and WNYC. Contact her at eic 'at' stanforddaily.com.