On Tuesday night, former Wisconsin men’s basketball star Nigel Hayes shared an 18-part story on Instagram’s story feature detailing multiple instances of racist encounters at a Kroger’s grocery store earlier in the day.
In the story, Hayes described two separate moments where he and a friend were asked whether they played sports, and laughed at or dismissed when they said they were doctors.
“We encountered this lady, and from here’s where the story starts to go downhill,” Hayes described as part of the first event.
“The lady goes, ‘Ok, I know you play for somebody, but I’m trying to figure out what team, because you guys are really tall,'” Hayes went on. “Anyone who knows me knows I usually try to respond so people don’t know I play basketball or deny it, so I responded, ‘No, actually I don’t play, I’m a doctor.’ The white lady’s response was, ‘ha ha ha, that’s funny,'” said Hayes.
As Hayes and his friend went to check out, they were encountered by a white male who asked something similar.
“Again, another white person, this time a male, goes, ‘Ok, is it basketball or is it football?'” said Hayes. “Again, we both responded with, ‘no, we’re doctors. We’re actually going to school right now.’ He responds with, ‘yeah, sure you guys are…looking at your bodies, I don’t think you’re big enough to be football players, so you must be basketball players, or maybe you can be like Tiger Woods and play golf.'”
To cap off the shopping event, Hayes was forced to confront yet another instance of racism when the cashier used an epithet with a rich history of racism. Hayes’ friend was not allowed to use his Kroger card (with the cashier again inferring that Hayes’ friend played professional or collegiate sports), so Hayes stepped in and used his.
“I come up and tell the guy I have my Kroger card, and he goes, ‘now see, that’s a good boy.’ A white male calling a black male ‘boy’ has really bad history, so yes, it pissed me off,” said Hayes.
“It’s the ultimate sign of disrespect, and is often more offensive than calling them the N-word,” said CNN contributor Roland S. Martin in 2008 after the term was used to reference then-Senator Barack Obama. “For years black men were summarily dismissed and treated with disregard. It was as if their stature was diminished when someone white called them a boy. I’ve heard black men describe the hurt and pain of growing up and having someone white call them a boy in front of their own child.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also come under fire recently for using the term to refer to an assistant U.S. attorney that was black.
Hayes’ outspoken nature and history of activism on campus are well documented. Earlier this year, Hayes discussed his thoughts on college athletes not being paid ahead of the first round of the NCAA tournament, and in October of 2016 walked around the set of College Gameday in Madison carrying a sign that said “Broke College Athlete – Anything Helps.” A month later, in November, Hayes tweeted out a note discussing racial injustice on campus after a fan showed up to a football game with a figure of then-President Obama with a noose around his neck. This prompted a New York Times story, as well.
Hayes finished his Wisconsin basketball career with 1,857 points, good for 3rd in Wisconsin men’s basketball history behind only Alando Tucker and Michael Finley. Behind Hayes, the Badgers went to two Final Fours and four consecutive Sweet 16’s. Hayes is projected to be taken in the NBA Draft this June.