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Wisconsin staffer resigns over use of “racial epithet”

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Championship

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 12: Head coach Greg Gard of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on during the second half against the Michigan Wolverines during the Big Ten Basketball Tournament Championship game at Verizon Center on March 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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A member of the Wisconsin men’s basketball staff has resigned as the school says that he used a racial slur in the presence of student-athletes, according to a statement released by the basketball program on Thursday.

Erik Helland, the strength and conditioning coach, was the one that used the racial epithet, and while reports from local media stated that Helland directed the slur at former Badger Kobe King, the school denied those accusations. Instead, the statement released by the program claims that Helland used the slur while “recounting a story.”

“UW Athletics administration was informed last weekend that Helland, while recounting a story from earlier in his NBA career, had used a racial epithet in the presence of multiple Wisconsin men’s basketball student-athletes,” the statement read. “UW Athletics confirmed that assertion on Sunday. UW Athletics works to promote a safe and welcoming environment for its student-athletes and staff and the aforementioned language used does not align with the values of the athletic department, men’s basketball program or the university.”

King was the second-leading scorer on the Wisconsin team before announcing last Wednesday that he was leaving the program because it was “not the right fit for me as a player and person.” King is African-American. Helland, who had been a part of the Wisconsin program since 2013, is white. He did not travel with the team to Minnesota for Wednesday night’s game.

“Multiple public reports have indicated that UW Athletics has been investigating the alleged use of racially insensitive language directed at one student-athlete,” the school’s statement continued. “That allegation is inaccurate. UW Athletics has no evidence -- nor has it been alleged to the athletic department -- that Helland directed racially insensitive language toward any member of the men’s basketball team.”