Two Dallas-area young men have been identified as having participated in a racist chant among fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma, according to statements from their families Tuesday evening.
A 19-year-old graduate of the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas has been identified by a school official as one of the members of the University of Oklahoma chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity who was seen taking part in a racist chant recorded and published online.
Parker Rice, a 2014 Jesuit graduate, is one of the people seen in the video, the school's communications director James Kramer said.
Rice released a statement to NBC 5 Tuesday evening.
"I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless. I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same. On Monday, I withdrew from the university, and sadly, at this moment our family is not able to be in our home because of threatening calls as well as frightening talk on social media.
I know everyone wants to know why or how this happened. I admit it likely was fueled by alcohol consumed at the house before the bus trip, but that’s not an excuse. Yes, the song was taught to us, but that too doesn’t work as an explanation. It’s more important to acknowledge what I did and what I didn’t do. I didn’t say no, and I clearly dismissed an important value I learned at my beloved high school, Dallas Jesuit. We were taught to be ‘Men for Others.’ I failed in that regard, and in those moments, I also completely ignored the core values and ethics I learned from my parents and others.
At this point, all I can do is be thoughtful and prayerful about my next steps, but I am also concerned about the fraternity friends still on campus.
Apparently, they are feeling unsafe and some have been harassed by others. Hopefully, the university will protect them.
For me, this is a devastating lesson and I am seeking guidance on how I can learn from this and make sure it never happens again. My goal for the long-term is to be a man who has the heart and the courage to reject racism wherever I see or experience it in the future.
Thank you for your consideration of my deepest apologies for what I did."
Earlier in the day, Jesuit president Mike Earsing said in a statement published on Twitter that one of the members of the SAE fraternity leading the racist chant appeared to be a recent graduate of the prep school and that the actions depicted in the video were not something taught at Jesuit.
"I was appalled at the video," said Earsing. "I'm hopeful this will be a call of all men and women of goodwill to say we're not going to accept bigotry. We're not going to accept injustice. We're not going to tolerate racism."
Rice and most of his family have removed their social media pages. A feature story on Rice and his two brothers published in Jesuit's online version of the student newspaper, jesuitroundup.org, was taken offline.
The feature included a photograph of the three brothers in OU clothing; Parker's included an SAE logo. (edited, right)
On Tuesday evening, NBC 5 confirmed a Highland Park man and OU student also participated in the racist chant on the bus.
The family of Levi Pettit, who, according to The Dallas Morning News, is a graduate of Highland Park High School, released the following statement.
"As parents of Levi, we love him and care for him deeply. He made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever. However, we also know the depth of our son’s character.
He is a good boy, but what we saw in those videos is disgusting. While it may be difficult for those who only know Levi from the video to understand, we know his heart, and he is not a racist. We raised him to be loving and inclusive and we all remain surrounded by a diverse, close-knit group of friends.
We were as shocked and saddened by this news as anyone. Of course, we are sad for our son – but more importantly, we apologize to the community he has hurt. We would also like to apologize to the – entire African American community, University of Oklahoma student body and administration. Our family has the responsibility to apologize, and also to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Our words will only go so far – as a family, we commit to following our words with deeds.
To our friends and family, thank you for your kind comments and prayers. They are very comforting in this difficult time.
We ask that the media and public please respect our family’s privacy as we come together to heal and determine next steps."
OU President David Boren expelled two students Tuesday after he said they were identified as leaders of a racist chant captured on video during a fraternity event. They were dismissed for creating a "hostile learning environment for others," Boren said. The names of the expelled students have not been released.
The video posted online showed several people on a bus participating in a chant that included a racial slur, referenced lynching and indicated black students would never be admitted to OU's chapter of SAE.
Boren acted swiftly after the video surfaced late Sunday, severing ties with the fraternity and ordering its house shuttered Monday and announcing the expulsions Tuesday.
"I hope that students involved in this incident will learn from this experience and realize that it is wrong to use words to hurt, threaten, and exclude other people," he said.
Boren said the university is working to identify other students involved in the chant, who may also face discipline.
Windows at the fraternity were boarded up and moving vans were parked outside Tuesday. Members have until midnight to remove their belongings. The Greek letters have already been removed from the side of the sprawling, sand-colored brick house on a street lined with fraternity and sorority houses just west of the center of campus.
Markeshia Lyon, a junior from Oklahoma City and one of about 1,400 black students who attend the university's Norman campus, said the mostly segregated Greek culture at OU is partly to blame for creating an environment where racism can thrive.
"That's something that's passed down, and that's something that needs to change," Lyon said.
She also said the video has sparked intense interest in addressing racial tensions on campus.
According to a report by KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, some Greek organizations at OU are recommending members not wear their letters after some not associated with SAE were spit on or threatened.
The university, located in the southern Oklahoma City suburb of Norman, has about 27,000 students, about 5 percent of whom are black.
On Monday, a top high school football recruit withdrew his commitment to attend the university after seeing the video.
North Mesquite High School football star Jean Delance, a top offensive lineman prospect, told reporters he spoke Sunday night with coach Bob Stoops but wasn't told about the incident.
"I'm very disappointed in the coaches not letting me know," Delance told KRLD-AM. "But that was just heartbreaking right there."
The Oklahoma football team decided to protest rather than practice Monday. At the team's indoor practice facility, coach Bob Stoops led the way as players, joined by athletic director Joe Castiglione, walked arm-in-arm, wearing black.
Former OU and Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switizer, who is also an SAE member, released a statement Tuesday supporting the university's decisions.
“While I support the University of Oklahoma and SAE’s decision to pursue swift actions, this situation is unfortunate for the many innocent people involved. As a longtime supporter of the University and member of the SAE chapter, I know the majority of our students don’t condone or participate in bigotry. These incidents are not a reflection of the true spirit of our campus," Switzer said. "I hope that we can begin to heal the wounds by avoiding rhetoric that fuels the fire and instead spend more time thinking about how we can collectively create positive relationships and interactions among our campus family.“
Boren attended a pre-dawn rally organized by students Monday morning and lambasted the fraternity members involved as "disgraceful" and called their behavior "reprehensible."
"This is not who we are," Boren said at a midday news conference. "I'd be glad if they left. I might even pay the bus fare for them."
National leaders of Sigma Alpha Epsilon said an investigation confirmed members took part in the chant and announced they would close the local chapter. The national group said it was "embarrassed" by the "unacceptable and racist" behavior.
The fraternity also said in a statement late Monday that the chant was not a part of fraternity tradition.
Boren said members of the fraternity were "not totally forthcoming." It's unclear who recorded the video, when it was recorded and who initially posted it online. Boren suggested it was likely taken by another student who didn't agree with what was being chanted.
OU Unheard, a black student group on campus, posted a link to the video after someone anonymously called it to the group's attention Sunday afternoon, communications director Alexis Hall said Monday.
"We immediately needed to share that with the OU student body," said Hall, a junior. "For students to say they're going to lynch an entire group of people. ... It's disgusting."
The video appears to have been taken on a charter bus, with at least one of the chanting young men wearing a tuxedo.
Telephone and email messages left Monday with several members of the fraternity seeking comment on the video were not returned. Other members declined to comment.
NBC 5's Katy Blakey and Holley Ford contributed to this report.