Ole Miss defensive back Otis Reese took to Twitter on Tuesday night to make a statement on the “devastating mental toll” his time at the University of Georgia had on him and plead with the NCAA to allow him eligibility to play for the Rebels this season.
“From the first moments I stepped on Campus, it was not what I expected,” Reese wrote. “The Racist events that I kept experiencing weighed on me heavily and seemed never ending.”
After playing for two seasons at UGA, Reese transferred to the University of Mississippi in January, and he is currently seeking waivers from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Southeastern Conference to be eligible for play with the Rebels this season.
In his statement, Reese said he submitted to the NCAA a text message from himself to UGA head coach Kirby Smart on Oct. 4 documenting his intent to leave the team. Reese also claimed that Smart “manipulated” him to “play the very next day” when he was at his “darkest moment.” On Oct. 5, the Bulldogs beat the University of Tennessee Volunteers 43-14.
“I have learned recently that UGA has opposed my waiver, which is unfortunate considering what I was told when I attempted to leave last year,” Reese wrote. “When I chose to leave the team, I was led to believe by Coach Smart that if I finished the season and not ‘Let my team down’ as he requested, he would support both my decision to transfer and my request to be immediately eligible.”
Reese also described in his statement being harassed by police officers in Athens, hearing racial slurs and witnessing a group of white students mocking slavery and pretending to whip each other.
“I didn’t want to be part of a campus where my classmates held that kind of hate in their hearts. None of these things were ever addressed by the coaches at UGA. There was literally nobody to speak to about these types of things without having fear of losing your position on the team.”
Reese said that his experience at UM thus far has been far different from his time at UGA, and he commended the football team and head coach Lane Kiffin for their dedication to equality.
“Coach Kiffin and Ole Miss have been strong advocates against racism and have put in the work to change perceptions. I’ve seen first-hand what genuine commitment to change looks like in Oxford, and I’m excited to be a part of this program.”
While the NCAA has yet to announce its decision on Reese’s eligibility, the Georgia Athletic Association made a statement to ESPN on Wednesday disputing any suggestion that UGA “maintains an unsafe, unsupportive or racially insensitive environment.”