A Georgia university coach sparked online rage this week when a Black baseball player recorded him berating him over his hair, vowing the athlete wouldn’t play until he cut his locs.
In a TikTok video posted Tuesday by Asher Akridge, the athlete can be heard conversing with Valdosta State University Baseball Head Coach Greg Guilliams.
“I never gave you any attitude about my hair,” Akridge says. “I tried to comply.”
“No, you didn’t. No, you didn’t,” Guilliams is heard telling Akridge. “If you complied with what I said, you would’ve gotten your hair cut and I wouldn’t have to keep talking to you about it.”
Akridge explains to the coach about his interpretation of a hair grooming rule having to be under a certain length and how he would keep his hair tied up.
“It wasn’t hanging down,” Akridge says, defensively.
“What I should’ve said in the beginning was, ‘This is what you gotta do with your hair. And then once you do that, I’ll let you come out there,’” Guilliams responds, supposedly blaming himself for not explaining the rules better.
Akridge attempts to bring up how other players on the team wear their hair, but Guilliams cuts him off.
“We’re not talking about other guys,” he says. “We’re not going down that route! …This is between you and me; I’m the head coach. It doesn’t matter what any other player says. …So, again, why would I want you back on the team when we’re right back on the same conversation again?!”
Akridge explains that his hair is cut, within the length policy, and that some teammates have hair longer than his.
“But it’s not short enough to be on the baseball team,” Guilliams says. “I’m willing to set some rules. I can set whatever rules I want. …We’re not talking about anyone else on the team. I don’t know why you can’t get that through your head.”
“I want to be treated just like everybody else!” Akridge demands.
“If you want to be treated like everybody else, then follow the rules I give ya.”
Guilliams ends the conversation and tells Akridge there’s nothing that could put him back on the baseball team.
At the end of the video, Akridge showed a picture of his thin locs that barely hung past his ears.
The video had garnered over 440,000 views by Thursday afternoon.
Social media users rushed to the comments to explain what they considered racially biased unequal treatment.
“It’s not that the coach has a rule. It’s that he’s not enforcing the rule with everybody on the team,” a TikTok user wrote.
“It’s not the length of his hair,” another TikToker commented, “its [sic] the style that his racist ass don’t like.”
“Valdosta State University as an Alumnus, this is completely unacceptable! Valdosta State Athletics we expect an equitable and fair reaction to the shame and disgrace that this coach has brought onto our team and program,” Brandon McCrae posted on Facebook. “There is NO rule that only applies to ‘certain’ demographics.”
“Are you a college that allows the ‘Head Coach’ of your Baseball team to openly discriminate against players?” a Facebook user commented on an unrelated post on Valdosta’s page.
“How about addressing the racism and discrimination exhibited by your head baseball team!” another wrote. “The racism he demonstrates is unacceptable on every level. You should be ashamed and embarrassed by this situation!”
Comments also flooded Valdosta State University’s Instagram page on a post advertising the school community ahead of the upcoming academic year.
“VSU is aware of a viral video and is currently reviewing the situation,” the school replied in the comments.
In a statement posted on Twitter Thursday, Valdosta State University said that in order to keep in line with its non-discrimination policy, the school “is committed to a fair, respectful, and non-discriminatory environment for all.”
“The VSU Office of Human Resources is conducting a comprehensive inquiry into the current matter and will address any personnel actions that are deemed to violate university policy if the inquiry reveals anything,” the post read without providing any specific details. “We are progressing through the required due process procedures.”
According to Guilliams’ profile on Valdosta State University’s athletics website, he has been coaching for 26 years and has been awarded on numerous occasions. “Energy, discipline, resolve” are his coaching words of inspiration.
Neither Guilliams nor any of the baseball coaching staff, athletics directors, or Valdosta State University administration immediately returned The Daily Beast’s multiple requests for comment Thursday.