Lt. Richard Collins III and Jordan McNair. Two ostensibly different stories, two tragedies that took place almost a year to the day apart, but also two shatteringly similar endings rooted in the grotesque negligence of one of the largest public universities in the United States.
Both Collins and McNair were young black men killed on the University of Maryland campus. Richard Collins III was a 23-year-old student and second lieutenant in the US Army about to graduate from Bowie State University when he was stabbed in the chest in May of 2017 by a University of Maryland student and member of the “alt-reich,” Stefan Urbanksi. He was killed brazenly, right on the College Park campus, in front of his friends.
Jordan McNair was a 19-year-old offensive lineman on the University of Maryland football team who died from heatstroke suffered during a UMD practice. McNair collapsed after a series of 110-yard sprints. As his body started to show distress, head strength and conditioning coach Rick Court allegedly yelled that teammates should “drag his ass across the field.” Only after an hour of McNair not being in full control of his own body did they finally call 911. At the hospital, his body was found to have a temperature of 106 degrees. Two weeks later, he died.
It took two months and a damning report from ESPN, but the school’s football program is now engulfed in scandal, with insider allegations of a “toxic coaching culture” under head coach D.J. Durkin. People inside the football program went public, speaking of an atmosphere of “intimidation, humiliation and verbal abuse that created a culture of fear for the players. The sources also reveal allegations of unhealthy eating habits and using food punitively against the players.” Now Court has resigned and Durkin has been placed on leave, but only after the ESPN story put the culture of the program under the brightest possible light.
The deaths of Lt. Richard Collins III and Jordan McNair are spoken about as separately, but they are linked by the university’s disregard for troubling, painfully obvious issues staring them right in the face. The school let the existence of “alt-reich” students fester—with posters going up around campus, racist chalkings, and the targeting of anti-racist campus organizations—despite the fact that student leaders warned that there could be a tragedy waiting to happen.