The coach of the University of North Carolina women’s basketball team is under investigation for allegedly making racist remarks, including suggesting her players would get “hanged from trees with nooses” if they performed badly, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Sylvia Hatchell, the longtime head coach, and her entire staff were placed on paid administrative leave this week as the athletic department probed “issues raised by student-athletes and others.” 


Six parents of current players spoke with the Post anonymously out of fear of retaliation for their daughters after they attended a meeting with university administrators last week to detail Hatchell’s alleged mistreatment.

The head coach reportedly suggested her players would get “hanged from trees with nooses” if their performance didn’t improve.

The comment allegedly came after a game against Howard University, a historically black university, despite the team’s victory.

Hatchell was also accused of trying to get her players to use a “war chant” to “honor” the Native American ancestry of an assistant coach who looked "visibly uncomfortable," according to parents with knowledge of the incident. 

The coach declined to be interviewed by the Post, but her attorney, Wade Smith, told the outlet that her
"noose" comments were being misconstrued.

“She said, ‘They’re going to take a rope and string us up, and hang us out to dry,’ ” Smith said.

“There is not a racist bone in her body. ... A very high percentage of the people who have played for her and who love her are African-American women. She is a terrific coach, and a truly world-class human being.”

The parents also alleged that Hatchell would force players to play despite serious injuries.

Parents told administrators at the meeting that a player learned she needed corrective shoulder surgery after she was pressed to play through an injury, according to people in attendance.

Another had torn a tendon in her knee but was forced to practice and pressured to be healthy enough to play in upcoming tournaments, parents said. A third player reportedly said that her coach questioned whether she had actually suffered a concussion.

Smith told the Post that Hatchell did not recall being accused of pressuring injured players to return to the court without being cleared by medical staff first.

UNC said that it has enlisted the help of law firm Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein to lead a review into the culture of the women’s basketball program and the experiences of the players.

It is unclear how long the review will last.