Sheffield university investigates racism claims after banana thrown at black graduate

'This is the most racially abused I have been in my entire life,' says Tyrell Pearce

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 04 April 2018 16:25 BST
Tyrell Pearce was sitting with friends watching the ice hockey game when the banana was thrown
Tyrell Pearce was sitting with friends watching the ice hockey game when the banana was thrown

A university has launched an investigation after a rotten banana was reportedly thrown at a black graduate student during an ice hockey match.

Tyrell Pearce said he was struck as he watched the game between his alma mater Sheffield Hallam University and their city rivals the University of Sheffield.

"This is the most racially abused I have been in my entire life," he told The Tab student newspaper.

He said there had been friendly banter between rival supporters at the 21 March game, but when his friends went to get drinks he was struck by the fruit.

"I chose to ignore it until I looked down and saw that it was a rotten banana," he added. "And I had the contents of this banana all over my head"

When he challenged a group in the direction it had come from, he said they remained silent so he "knew it was them".

Abdullah Okud, president elect of Sheffield Hallam University’s black and minority ethnic students’ committee, wrote about the incident on Facebook.

“We are very concerned and deeply saddened that a racist event had occurred," he said.

He added: “It is imperative now more than ever to condemn this incident and for both Universities and Students’ Unions to proactively work with all staff and students to make sure such incidents never happen again.”

A Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson, said: “We are aware that, during a recent Varsity sporting event, a Hallam graduate was the victim of an alleged racial incident.

“We are working with the University of Sheffield to investigate the incident and we have contacted the former student to offer any support he may need. The sporting community in Sheffield is inclusive and we are committed to championing the values of the Varsity Oath which reflects our belief that everyone should have the opportunity to play, spectate and engage in sport in a welcoming and inclusive environment.”

A University of Sheffield spokesperson said: "The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Students' Union will not tolerate racism and condemn the alleged abhorrent behaviour by an individual during the recent Varsity sporting event. This alleged incident clearly contravenes the values of inclusion and respect which are fundamental to both organisations and will not be tolerated. The University and the Students' Union will fully cooperate with any subsequent police investigation."

The incident comes after a pair 18-year-old men were arrested last month, after a Nottingham Trent University student posted video footage of racist chants outside her bedroom door in her student halls.

Members of a student law society were also suspended by the University of Exeter after WhatsApp conversations where they allegedly made racist comments were shared online.

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