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The Utah State football program has suspended a player while the university investigates “inappropriate racial comments” he allegedly made this past weekend.

The USU athletics department issued a joint statement by athletic director John Hartwell and head football coach Gary Andersen on Sunday evening, in which the player was not identified. A Utah State spokesman said additional comments will not be made during the investigation.

“We have been made aware of inappropriate racial comments made by a current student-athlete on our football team,” the joint statement read. “This will not be tolerated and we have suspended the individual immediately, and pending an investigation will take appropriate action.”

Several social media posts, including screenshots containing snippets of an exchange between the Aggie player in question and a former high school teammate, can be found on Twitter. The conversation revolved around the celebration of the 4th of July, with the former teammate commenting he would not be observing the holiday because of racial injustices involving the Founding Fathers.

The Herald Journal has chosen not to identify the Aggie student-athlete since the investigation is incomplete. No timetable for the investigation has been released.

During the past few weeks, Utah State’s athletics department has made a concerted effort to address racism and concerns of racial inequality in present-day America.

USU’s football program released a statement early last month that included signatures from other Aggie coaches outside of football.

“Our locker room is full of young men diverse in background, race, and beliefs and is a locker room of equal opportunity, togetherness and respect,” the statement read. “It is a locker room of core values that includes respecting and caring for teammates and others around us.

“Recent events in our country remind us of the privilege we have to be coaches and of our responsibility as educators. Though not perfect, we strive to build a culture of love, respect and opportunity for all. We strive to treat each young man as if they are our very own. Our goals for them include success academically, socially and athletically on the field and beyond football. The experiences we have with our team provide some of the most meaningful relationships we have in this life.

“Meaningful change will come as we take responsibility for ourselves to be better. As a staff, we are committed to being a part of the solution by cultivating attitudes of understanding, fostering respect, creating opportunity for all, and working to build bridges that unite us as individuals, as the Aggie football family, and as citizens of our nation.”

Additionally, USU’s athletics department released video clips of a pair of Black athletes, gymnast Emma Cobabe and football player Andre Grayson, discussing “the challenges they have faced and how the #BlackLivesMatter movement has inspired them,” per a June 11 tweet by @USUAthletics.

A week later, the Aggies released another video on the same Twitter handle that asserted the athletics department was “committed to equality and unity” and urged other people “to join us in being a positive agent for change.” The voices in the video were of a dozen USU student-athletes and Hartwell.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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