CW: Racism, transphobia, gender-based violence
Pomona-Pitzer football player Skylar Noble PZ ’22 sparked outrage among the 5C community when screenshots and recordings of his TikTok videos under the handle @sketchy.sky emerged on Twitter Sunday night.
The first TikTok to make its way to Twitter was a screenshot of a video captioned “people really wake up and choose to believe that Serena Williams is and has always been a female.”
Two more of Noble’s TikToks surfaced later on Sunday evening. The first of the two, originally posted four days prior, was captioned “I love how music can take you places in life. Like when Lizzo starts playing at a restaurant I leave and go to another one …” In the other video, Noble acts out a situation where a “girl named Madison walks into my party,” and then he punches her just out of frame.
5C students and alumni took to social media to call out his remarks, citing them as anti-Black, misogynistic and transphobic. Several students said the videos perpetuated attitudes that normalized intimate partner violence and violence against women.
Noble did not respond to TSL for comment about these allegations or the intent of his videos.
Lily Hibbard SC ’22, the first to post Noble’s content to Twitter publicly, found the TikTok videos “really disturbing” and “harmful,” she told TSL.
“Something that really bothered me about them is that we see how alleged jokes materialize into violence, and it’s not something I’m comfortable trivializing or taking lightly. I don’t even think they can be considered jokes,” Hibbard said. “And especially when just a little bit of critical thinking is applied, we know how identities intersect that place Black trans women in harm’s way more frequently than other people.”
Ahead of a response from both Pitzer and P-P Athletics, Becca Zimmerman PZ ‘21, Pitzer Student Senate president, and Kaila Teague PZ ’22, Pitzer Student Senate president-elect, released an email statement Monday morning to condemn Noble’s posts and offer resources to students affected by the videos. Zimmerman told TSL she was one such student.
“Intimate partner violence is something that I’ve experienced firsthand and I haven’t talked about publicly … I reached out to Pitzer administrators, not just because I wanted to raise the alarm and say, ‘Hey this is out there, and this is not okay,’ but also because I was like, ‘I need support from seeing this,’” Zimmerman said.
Hours before the athletic department’s official statement, P-P athletes took to social media to voice concern. Athletes on P-P women’s volleyball team, men’s soccer team and men’s water polo team released lengthy statements on athletes’ personal social media accounts condemning Noble’s videos and extending support to communities affected.
Former members of the P-P football team were vociferous in their responses to Noble’s videos, taking to social media hours after his videos were began circulating on Twitter. Lucas Hackett-Provenzano, a former member of the Pomona-Pitzer football team who is currently taking a gap year, used his Instagram account to unpack his response.
“My first reaction was that I was enraged, because I just find his post to be offensive on so many different levels, then [I was] embarrassed to be teammates with him,” he said. “I was shocked.”
According to a source close to the football team, Black athletes on the P-P football team — who are few in number — have been outspoken in their response to Noble’s videos, while the response from white players disappointed them.
“It’s not surprising; it just doesn’t sit well with me at all,” they said. “It’s telling of the culture of the team.”
Andrew Olson PO ’20 played for the P-P football team for four years. He told TSL he completely disagreed with Noble’s comments and found them “disgusting, sexist, racist and transphobic,” and said he’d heard “attitudes of sexism” during his time on the team.
Olson expressed concern that Noble’s remarks could reflect poorly on the athletic department or the Pomona-Pitzer football team.
“I’ve spoken with the coaches there many times and I really do believe that they’re very good people, that they’re dedicated to upholding an attitude of inclusivity and acceptance within the program,” Olson said. “It’s saddening to me that people can be a part of that program and then miss so clearly the message that should be imparted.”
TSL reached out to four active members of the team who declined to comment about the incident at this time, most citing the need for personal space and reflection.
The P-P athletic department’s official Twitter account released a statement Monday night acknowledging that many of their “community members were harmed by the appalling content of recent social media posts.”
“In short, we do not condone transphobic, anti-Black, misogynistic or harmful behaviour and stand in support of all impacted community members. Pomona-Pitzer athletics continues to be committed to sustaining an inclusive and welcoming environment, and we will continue to work toward that goal,” the statement read.
Pressure from students for further accountability from the athletic department continued after the statement was issued. On Instagram, commenters asked for tangible steps forward: “How are you planning on working towards that goal?” one commenter asked.
Teague replied to the statement on Twitter, asking similar questions.
“As a representative of students harmed by the content in question, I would like to know what actions you are taking now to ensure future safety of the communities harmed & proposed plans for sustaining an educated and respectful culture in your athletics teams?”
A Pitzer spokesperson as well as P-P football’s head coach John Walsh did not respond to TSL for comment.
“While I will not comment on the outcomes involving individual student-athlete conduct, I will reiterate and underscore Pomona-Pitzer Athletics’ commitment to creating and cultivating an inclusive environment of respect,” P-P Athletic Director Miriam Merrill told TSL.
“It is disheartening when actions of a community member do not align with the values of our program, but we know we must remain steadfast to the education and growth of all of our student-athletes and members of our community,” she said.
Pitzer President Melvin Oliver emailed students Monday afternoon to express his “disappointment and disapproval” in regard to Noble’s videos.
“The views expressed in the videos, which have since been deleted by the student, are antithetical to Pitzer’s community values … where every member of our community is valued and respected,” Oliver said.
The scope of the problem, Hibbard told TSL, expands far beyond Noble or his home institution.
“This isn’t just a Pitzer problem; I think it would be great if the 5Cs addressed it as a whole,” she said. “I definitely think that the P-P football team has a responsibility to address this because he is one of their athletes.”
Noble’s incident is hot on the heels of the P-P football team appointing their first ever female assistant coach Baleigh McCuskey PO ’19, who played on the P-P softball team all four years at college. McCuskey didn’t respond to TSL for comment on the incident.
Noble’s behavior is not the first time the 5C community has had to reckon with misogynistic and racist attitudes from student-athletes. In November 2019, The Scripps Voice reported on three senior women of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps swim and dive team who resigned due to their head coach’s “inaction” when the “Stag Survival Guide” was made public.
The 13-page document created by then-senior men on the CMS swim and dive team included use of a racial slur, explicit references to swimmers on the women’s team and a homophobic description of another teammate.
Looking forward, Zimmerman said the student body needs to bridge a knowledge gap to ensure a similar incident doesn’t repeat itself.
“We have a huge knowledge gap within our … student body where some students might understand that it’s wrong to [spread racism or transphobia], but they don’t actually understand how making certain jokes can very quickly translate into direct harm,” she said.
And for those students who feel like they aren’t “fluent in the appropriate theories,” Zimmerman encouraged them to use all of the resources available.
“I think if you’re asking questions respectfully, no one is going to be harassing you or upset with you. I’ve seen it in my classes where someone’s like, ‘Hey, I’ve never heard about this before. What are some resources I could look at?’ Or, ‘Could you explain that a little bit more?’ And that’s gone over really well. I think that’s one of the strengths of Pitzer: how much peer-to-peer education happens.”
Although she envisions a lot of work that is yet to be done, she also expressed pride in the way students used social media as a way to come together and take action as a united student body.
“I also think this was a moment of reckoning, and I hope that we have more of these [moments] where the community was able to come together and hold an individual accountable for something that was really just not in line with what our values are and with what’s acceptable.”