Utah State community responds to ‘Russia’ chants directed at Ukrainian player

Feb 5, 2023, 5:38 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2023, 12:41 pm

LOGAN, Utah — Colorado State University apologized after some members in its student section were heard chanting “Russia” at Max Shulga, a Utah State University student-athlete from Ukraine.

“It was about 40 seconds left in the game. It was still a relatively close game at that point,” recalled Scott Garrard, USU’s play-by-play voice for basketball and football.

He said the Mountain West Men’s Basketball game was tight, and the crowd was emotional.

“I’ve seen a lot of angry fans, I’ve seen a lot of celebratory fans, I haven’t seen anything quite like what I saw last night,” Garrard said.

He said something loud enough to be heard over his headset caught his attention.

“I was probably about 30-40 feet away from the student section of Colorado State, and I hear some chanting, so I pop over my headset a little bit to try to hear what was being said, and it sounds to me like they’re saying ‘Russia, Russia,'” Garrard said.

The chants were directed toward Max Shulga, who is from Ukraine.

“None of us can empathize with what he’s going through right now, but from a fan standpoint, from a team standpoint, they’ve really rallied around, tried to put their arms around him, try to help him through a really difficult situation as his family still lives in Kyiv,” Garrard expressed.

Colorado State Apologizes After Negative Chant Toward Utah State’s Max Shulga

The Ukrainian student-athlete is open about how the invasion of his home country has impacted him.

“We’re hyper-aware of what’s happening in Ukraine. We love Max,” USU student Tate Bennett said.

His Utah State family has rallied around him.

“They have Max’s back,” Garrard said. “This is a very close-knit team. You could tell they were very upset with what was going on.”

Shulga continued shooting, despite the chants. In a statement, he called the chants “extremely upsetting in the moment.”

Colorado State University released an apology acknowledging the chants, writing,

Following tonight’s basketball game, we became aware that a small group of individuals in our student section chanted ‘Russia’ at a student-athlete from Utah State, who is from the Ukraine.

On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State. This is a violation of our steadfast belief in the Mountain West Sportsmanship Policy and University Principles of Community. Every participant, student, and fan should feel welcomed in our venues, and for something like this to have occurred is unacceptable at Colorado State.

Some USU students said it’s not enough. Madison Scholc is a member of the university’s HURD committee, the school’s student section.

“We at the HURD here, we are known for heckling, and we definitely go up to the line of things that are appropriate to say, but we make sure that we don’t cross that line,” she said. “You shouldn’t make fun of a situation where so many people are dying.”

Utah State Athletics released a statement Sunday, calling the incident “inappropriate and unacceptable.” They went on to write they appreciate Colorado State’s administration for not condoning the behavior of those students.

Shulga wrote that he accepted CSU’s apology and said he knows emotions can run high in competitive situations. He ended his statement by asking fans to pray for peace in Ukraine.

“We do what we can to show our support for him and for his family there,” Bennett said.

Garrard also co-hosts “Hans and Scotty G” every day from 12-3 p.m. on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone.

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Utah State community responds to ‘Russia’ chants directed at Ukrainian player