Photo of Lobo player on a leash sparks controversy

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – While it’s likely to be a heated match-up on court when UNM takes on the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Wednesday, things were already heated off the court after a picture of a Lobo basketball player surfaced that some are calling racist.

The picture was posted on UNLV student Zach Peters’ Twitter account. It shows UNLV’s mascot, The Runnin’ Rebel, leading a black Lobo basketball player by a dog leash. The player was Jamal Fenton.

It quickly got a lot of attention online with Peters getting a lot of flack online after some called it racist. Online publications also questioned his intentions.

Co-founder of the UNLV Rebellion, Ben Leavitt, said the picture did not get posted on the UNLV Rebellion. However, Leavitt said Peters does post, like other students, to the Rebellion Twitter account which is a student-based group.

Leavitt spoke on Peters’ behalf Wednesday, saying the picture was just promoting Wednesday night’s game.

“Just a student at UNLV and he didn’t have any racial implications behind the picture,” Leavitt said.

The group said they didn’t have anything to do with the picture of Fenton. But soon after, Peters removed the picture from Twitter and UNLV Rebellion posted a similar photo with a different Lobo – Cameron Bairstow – on the leash.

That raised eyebrows on the UNM campus.

“It is interesting that the original image was taken down,” UNM Dean of Students Tomas Aguirre said.

“If they changed after, that makes it seem like they were being a little racist,” said UNM Student Renee Salazar.

Leavitt said that’s not the case at all.

“A Lobo is a wild dog and how do you tame a wild dog? You put it on a leash,” Leavitt said. “We should have used better judgement to be honest. The best way to deal with it would have been to post a picture of a Lobo.”

UNM students and staff had mixed reactions.

“I thought it was kind of racist my self,” said UNM student Joshua Cheese.

“If it was just the team, people should not be making a bigger deal out of it because it just makes wild fire spread,” Salazar said.

As for Leavitt, he sent his apologies to anyone who deemed the picture as racist instead of a college rivalry.

“Once again, the ‘Rebellion’ is sorry to any offended by the images,” Leavitt said. “We look forward to the game tonight.”

Both pictures have now been removed from Twitter.

Ironically, Fenton doesn’t even play for the Lobos anymore.

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