Black College Grad Responds to Woman Who Questioned His Professionalism

May 18th 2017

Katelyn Harrop

University of Wisconsin basketball alum and NBA prospect Nigel Hayes received an offensive email from a woman identifying as a fan, suggesting he must cut his hair in order to succeed in professional sports.

Hayes, who graduated from University of Wisconsin with a degree in business finance last weekend, shared the message on Twitter. “I guess a black male's naturally dreaded hair in a ponytail isn't fit for NBA teams/communities. As well as, it seems, professional society,” Hayes wrote in his post.

“Hope you had a great graduation day today over in Madison… it only happened because you did what many athletes didn’t do when they are so fixated on on the NFL, NBA, or pro hockey…. You stayed in college,” the message begins.

“But now one thing - what the heck crazy odd hairdo are you having on the top of your head??”

The email is a reminder of the offensive notion that black people must conform to white-constructed standards of appearance in order to succeed. However, people on Twitter were quick to call out the absurdity of the woman's email on his hair.

“You mentioned to television sports reporters that you worry that younger student athletes will be better than yourself and get a chance to advance to the professionals...” the email reads. “Sure true, but who wants a handsome nice guy like you with such a bizarre hair-do as what you got?”

Discrimination against black hairstyles, such as the locs worn by Hayes, is a piece of a larger picture of discrimination against black people in the professional world.

Black millennial men are expected to have two or more times as much education as their white male peers to be considered for the same job, according to a 2014 report from Young Invincibles. And discrimination against locs was upheld as legally “non-discriminatory.”

A decision handed down by a U.S. Court of Appeals in 2016 affirmed that places of work can discriminate against natural hairstyles, such as locs, on the basis that the hairstyles themselves are not directly correlated with race, and therefore are not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

This is not the first time Hayes has posted about his experiences with racist behavior. In November, Hayes posted a response on Twitter, after seeing a student wearing a Barack Obama mask and a noose tie at sporting event at University of Wisconsin.

“Many people believe that student-athletes of color are immune to the racial injustices that affect other students of color on campus,” Hayes wrote. “However, our experiences are not shielded by the 'W' we wear on our chests, are experiences are one in the same. We are loved during competition, but then subject to racial discrimination in our everyday lives, too.”

Hayes’ post has received an outpouring of support from peers, fans, and even the university itself.

Furthermore, his post highlights that a black person doesn't have to assimilate to Western ideals in order to be deemed a professional by society.