A Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball staffer has resigned after using a racial slur, the school announced Thursday.
Wisconsin officials, however, deny that Erik Helland, the director of strength and conditioning, used the slur against a student-athlete. Earlier reports stated that a Wisconsin basketball staffer had directed a racial epithet toward Kobe King, who left the team last week.
The school instead claims Helland used the racial epithet while “recounting a story.”
“UW Athletics administration was informed last weekend that Helland, while recounting a story from earlier in his NBA career, had used a racial epithet in the presence of multiple Wisconsin men’s basketball student-athletes,” a university statement said. “UW Athletics confirmed that assertion on Sunday. UW Athletics works to promote a safe and welcoming environment for its student-athletes and staff and the aforementioned language used does not align with the values of the athletic department, men’s basketball program or the university.”
King, the second-leading scorer on the team, made his announcement about transferring on Instagram, where he stated that Wisconsin was “not the right fit for me as a player and person.”
“Multiple public reports have indicated that UW Athletics has been investigating the alleged use of racially insensitive language directed at one student-athlete,” the school said in a statement. “That allegation is inaccurate. UW Athletics has no evidence — nor has it been alleged to the athletic department — that Helland directed racially insensitive language toward any member of the men’s basketball team.”
Helland, who had been with the program since 2013, did not travel with the team to Minnesota, where Wisconsin suffered a 70-52 loss to the Gophers on Wednesday, after being placed on administrative leave.
This has been a turbulent stretch for Wisconsin, which has lost four of its last six games. Last week, Brad Davison was suspended for one game after questionable contact against an Iowa player’s lower body. He was suspended for a similar maneuver against Marquette last year.