Colorado State apologizes after fans chant “Russia” at Ukrainian basketball player during game

As Utah State men’s basketball player Max Schluga stepped up to the free throw line during Saturday night’s game against Colorado State, the 6’4” junior heard something disturbing coming from the stands. “Russia! Russia!” opposing fans chanted at Schluga – who is from Ukraine.

Schluga, whose hometown is Kyiv, still has family in the war-torn country, which has been under attack from Russia for almost a year.

After the game, a statement was posted on the Colorado State Rams Twitter. 

“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,” the statement reads. 

“On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State,” the statement continues. “This is a violation of our steadfast belief in the Mountain West Sportsmanship Policy and University Principles of Community.”

The school said “every participant, student, and fan should feel welcomed” in its venues, and “for something like this to have occurred is unacceptable at Colorado State.”

Some criticized the apology’s use of “the Ukraine,” which is the way Russians typically refer to the former Soviet constituent state. Ukraine and Western nations generally refer to the independent nation simply as “Ukraine.”

Colorado State Head Men’s Basketball Coach Niko Medved also shared a statement on Twitter: “I have so much respect for [Utah State University Basketball] and Max Shulga. We have amazing fans and students but this is not acceptable! My sincere apologies.”

The day after the game, Utah State Athletics shared a statement about the chants toward Schluga, saying they fully support him and his family in Ukraine. 

“The incident that occurred during our men’s basketball game at Colorado State last night was inappropriate and unacceptable,” the statement reads. “We appreciate the Colorado state administration and basketball staff for not condoning such behavior.”

Schluga has played in Ukrainian basketball leagues – even during the war with Russia. Last summer, he played for his home country in the European Championships, during which his team ranked No. 7.

On Saturday, Utah won the game against Colorado – 88 to 79. 

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