Former Georgia defensive back Otis Reese took to Twitter on Tuesday night to detail racism he experienced while at the University of Georgia and disclose that he was “manipulated” by head coach Kirby Smart to remain at Georgia in 2019.
Reese said he was pulled over by police officers in Athens twice and that the officers were “extremely aggressive” and “accused him and his roommate for using drugs, searched the car without any basis and told them that they would be taken to jail.”
“This type of harassment was a constant discussion around players throughout my time at UGA as many of my teammates were falsely arrested and harassed,” Reese said.
In his statement, Reese said he initially requested to transfer on Oct. 4, 2019. He said Smart “manipulated” Reese to play the day after his request to depart.
Reese said this is when he “truly was at his darkest moment.”
In response to these accusations, the UGA Athletic Association released a statement Wednesday morning saying "We cannot comment on student-athlete eligibility matters due to federal privacy laws, but we would be happy to share our full response to Otis Reese’s waiver request, if he provides a signed release allowing us to do so."
UGAAA's release also added that Georgia "disputes any suggestion that it maintains an unsafe, unsupportive, or racially insensitive environment."
Reese continued to mention that Smart assured him that he would support both his decision to transfer and his request to be immediately eligible if he fulfilled a request to finish the 2019 season and “not let his teammates down.”
Reese transferred to the University of Mississippi last winter. Now four days away from Mississippi’s season opener, Reese shared that he recently learned that Georgia has opposed his waiver, and that he has not been granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA or the SEC to play this season.
“My 1 ½ years a UGA took a devastating mental toll on me,” Reese said in his statement. “From my first moments I stepped on campus, it was not what I expected. The racist events that I kept experiencing weighed on me heavily and seemed never ending.”
He mentioned that a close friend and teammate — presumptively former Georgia and current Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields — was called a racial slur by former Georgia baseball player Adam Sasser. Reese also referenced a 2019 video of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity members whipping each other and using racial slurs.
“These were two very public events,” Reese said. “I didn’t want to be a part of a campus where my classmates had that kind of hate in their hearts. None of these things were ever addressed by the coaches at UGA.”
Current Georgia football players and coaches have recently spoken out in support of racial justice in a video posted to the team’s Twitter account on Aug. 27 and in numerous virtual press conferences with the media.
The football team congregated outside of the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building on Sept. 2 to hear Hamilton Holmes Jr. speak. Hamilton Holmes Jr. is the son of Hamilton Holmes, one of the first Black students to be admitted to UGA in 1961. The UGA Athletics Association outlined a 12-month “sustainable action” plan to tackle issues within diversity and inclusion in its Sept. 11 meeting.
Reese’s statement comes three days after screenshots of racist and offensive GroupMe messages from members of the UGA chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity were posted to Twitter. The chapter self-suspended on Sunday.
A current Georgia player also reacted to Reese’s statement. Wide receiver Kearis Jackson quote retweeted Reese and added: “I remember that night …… smh [shaking my head],” but did not mention specific details.
Reese finished by stating that Ole Miss and head coach Lane Kiffin have been advocates against racism and that he’s excited to be part of the program. Reese highlighted that if he had been allowed to leave when he first requested, he would be able to play this Saturday.
“I cannot understand why I am being forced to sit back while my teammates are preparing for their first game,” Reese said. “All I’m asking for is what is fair and be given the opportunity to take the field this season with my brothers.”