Southern Methodist University has found themselves embroiled in a bit of a controversy that they themselves created. The Texas university had planned a small memorial honor for one of the Dallas police officers who died earlier this year, but then they canceled it.
And it is SMU’s own statement about why they canceled the event that was scheduled for a weekend volleyball game that has generated so much controversy.
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Earlier this summer, five Dallas police officers were ambushed, shot and killed. 14-year-old Victoria Smith is the daughter of Dallas Police Sgt. Michael Smith, one of officers killed.
SMU had invited Victoria to come to a volleyball game, and open the game in honor of her father. They sent a special invitation to her. Then someone thought better of the invitation, and it was rescinded just one day later.
“I think it was handled very poorly,” said Victoria Smith. “I was infuriated.”
Victoria is part of the Knights Volleyball Academy team. Along with her teammates, she had planned on attending the game between SMU and South Florida. And Victoria’s role was to hit an honorary first serve.
“She was looking forward to it. It was something she was able to do,” Victoria’s mother, Heidi Bradley Smith said. “There’s not a lot that’s been in her control.”
And for Victoria, it was about remembering her father. “I felt like I finally got to do something,” Victoria said.
Then SMU sent an email to Victoria and her mother. They didn’t want to go through with the opening of the game as planned, saying “in light of recent events and diversity within the SMU community … the demonstration could be deemed insensitive.”
The demonstration, honoring a Dallas police officer who was killed by an assassin who wanted only to shoot white cops was “could be deemed insensitive.”
“She feels like her dad was really disrespected,” Heidi Smith said. Many others who have heard about the decision feel exactly the same way.
After news of SMU’s decision leaked, the university hastily re-extended the invitation. Yet the damage was done. Victoria wasn’t going. “I was just angry after the first one. They just don’t want to because they were afraid,” Victoria said. “The second one was them just not wanting to get hurt by what they said, just to cover it up.”
SMU then issued this statement:
“It would be SMU’s privilege to feature Victoria Smith delivering an honorary serve at the SMU volleyball game Saturday. Her father, Dallas Police Sgt. Michael Smith, was killed in the line of duty July 7. The SMU Volleyball program extends its sincere apologies to the Smith family and is reaching out this morning to speak directly to Mrs. Smith to apologize and reinforce that the invitation stands. This incident does not reflect SMU values. Due to a change in staffing, there was a breakdown in communication that led to this unfortunate situation. This communication to Mrs. Smith would never have occurred if proper approval and communications procedures had been followed. The invitation was intended to help a family heal, and we very much look forward to Victoria’s first serve in the volleyball match Saturday.”
“SMU values the service and sacrifices of all first-responders and honored Victoria’s father, Sgt. Michael Smith, as well as Dallas Police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, and Patrick Zamarripa, DART Officer Brent Thompson, SMU Officer Mark McCullers and University Park Fire Department Chief Bob Poynter at the annual First-Responders football game earlier this fall.”
Frederick Frazier, president of the Dallas Police Association, issued the following statement:
“The Dallas Police Association is appalled by the tactless actions of the SMU women’s volleyball team and the insincere and apathetic apology that followed. To rescind their invitation to the family of slain officer Michael Smith only adds to the personal grief they’ve suffered since the July tragedy. We call on SMU President R. Gerald Turner to offer a more detailed explanation on why honoring a Dallas police officer who was killed in the line of duty is considered ‘insensitive’ by his university.”