A former Castleton University football player has issued a complaint saying he was discriminated against and dismissed from the team without cause by coach Tony Volpone, sending shock waves across campus.
Hezekiah Williamson, a black student from Albany, N.Y., transferred to Castleton this fall and was a member of the team before he was released on Homecoming Weekend.
“They kicked me off the team and they didn’t tell me why. That’s the thing,” said Williamson in a Friday interview. “I feel like there are a couple people on the team, white or black, being discriminated against.”
Williamson’s displeasure has led to the involvement of the Champlain Area NAACP and an evaluation by the university.
“Mr. Williamson has stated that he felt he was improperly removed from the team without cause, so we are on Mr. Williamson’s behalf and are requesting that the school review their policies and evaluate if Mr. Williamson has been treated fairly,” said Mary Brown-Guillory, the Champlain Area NAACP president.
Williamson also said he plans to bring the NAACP to Castleton so he “can start something for players who got discriminated against, because I don’t want that to happen to another player and people wasting their money coming here because I put my parents in debt.”
In an Oct. 14 Rutland Herald article, Williamson was quoted saying that the school offered to reimburse him all the tuition he paid.
Since the Herald article ran, the university has been buzzing about the discrimination allegations and began buzzing even more after learning Williamson was arrested Friday night for an incident on campus.
Castleton Police Chief Peter Mantello said Castleton police responded to a report of an incident involving an intoxicated student not cooperating with Public Safety.
“They responded and made contact with Hezekiah and he assaulted at least three of the (public safety) officers,” Mantello said. “He was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct.”
“He was brought to the Grace House in Rutland City because of the intoxication levels and was issued a citation, which is an appearance to court,” said Mantello.
Public Safety Director Keith Molinari said he couldn’t comment on the alleged assault due to the university’s student privacy regulations.
Williamson did not respond immediately to an interview request on the Friday night incident.
While current players said they were told not to talk about the discrimination allegations, former players are rushing to Volpone’s defense.
Former Castleton football player, Ryan Stanek, said he finds it hard to believe that his former coach would discriminate against a black player.
“He (Williamson) is trying to make a statement and destroy the school name and the coaching staff because he is pissed off he wasn’t playing,” Stanek said. “He’s a black running back and look who beat him out, another black running back.”
Jelani Williams-Beckett, a former Spartan who also played for Volpone in 2014, was asked if he ever felt discriminated against for being black.
“No not even in the least bit. In fact, earlier this year I was asked multiple times to come and speak to the team,” he said.
Williamson is not the first player to be dismissed from the team under Volpone, according to another former Castleton football player, Tyler Combs.
“People were kicked off, but was usually for attitudes. Bad attitudes in the classroom, in the weight room or on the field,” he said.
Combs said there were criteria for staying on the team, including things like community engagement, grades, attitude in the weight room and overall attitude toward the team.
Williamson, 21, transferred to Castleton from Division 1 Marshall University. In high school, Williamson was selected to play in national all-star games and spent a post grad year at Hargave Military Academy before attending Marshall on several scholarships, according to Williamson.
There are no records of Williamson playing football at Marshall and calls to Marshall’s football coach and athletic director were not returned.
Conor Crotty, who played for Volpone during his time at Endicott College, said he was “shocked” by the accusations.
“He never disrespected anyone because of the color of their skin,” said Crotty.
Volpone referred all questions to Jeff Weld, the director of Marketing and Communications at Castleton.
“We take allegations of discrimination and/or violation of student rights seriously,” Weld said.
Although President Wolk was not allowed to comment due to student privacy laws, he did say in an email “please keep in mind that there are two sides to a story, even though we are prevented from providing the facts regarding what has transpired.”