Video on social media shows the players giving the middle finger and shouting obscenities. Guard Malique Jacobs is among those out for the first period.
CLEVELAND — The rivalry runs deep, but in this case, the Mid-American Conference feels Kent State crossed a line, and it could cost them dearly.
Just hours before Saturday’s men’s basketball tournament championship game against Akron, the MAC has suspended four Golden Flashes players for singing a “diss track” about the Zips in a video that has since made the rounds on social media. Forward DJ Johnson has been suspended indefinitely and will not play tonight, while guards Malique Jacobs and Julius Rollins along with center Cli’Ron Hornbeak will only be forced to sit out the first half.
MAC Commissioner Dr. Job Steinbrecher released the following statement:
“I’m disappointed this occurred. This does not represent the values of Kent State or the Mid-American Conference. However, I commend the leadership of Kent State for being proactive in addressing this matter and collaborating with my office to bring this situation to resolution.”
The video, which appears to have been posted on Snapchat, shows Johnson holding the camera in the locker room following Kent State’s 67-61 semifinal win over Ohio Friday night while he and others sing along to an offensive song about Akron that is blasting over the announcers. Johnson can be seen giving the middle finger, uttering multiple obscenities (including the n-word), calling out some Zips players by name or number, and making a smoking gesture with his fingers. Jacobs, Rollins, and Hornbeak also flipped off the camera.
“The behavior in the video does not reflect the core values of Kent State, nor does it live up to the standards of we expect of our student-athletes,” KSU wrote before the discipline was announced. “We expect all members of our Kent State community to act in accordance with our values and behavior. To the contrary will not be tolerated.”
Johnson has not played since Feb. 18 for unspecified reasons, while Rollins has not appeared in a game this season and Hornbeak is averaging less than 10 minutes per contest and has not been a part of the MAC tourney. However, Jacobs is one of the Flashes’ top contributors and led the team with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the victory over OU.
This is not the first time this season Kent State has had issues with Akron that go beyond the game itself. Following their 66-64 road win over the Zips at James A. Rhodes Arena on Feb. 11, several Flashes players ran over to the home fans and began taunting them. The fans shouted and gestured back, and while the incident didn’t result in any major discipline, the KSU squad had to be led away from the area.
The MAC title game tips off at 7:30 tonight from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, with the winner advancing to the NCAA tournament.