A high school cheerleader had her college “dream” shattered when a black classmate arbitrarily posted a years-old video of her saying the N-word, her lawyer said this week — as the University of Tennessee faced backlash for pushing the teen out.
Incoming freshman Mimi Groves, now 19, was kicked off the school cheer team and forced to withdraw earlier this year amid complaints from outraged alumni and students when fellow teen Jimmy Galligan posted the clip.
The incident gained national attention when it was detailed in a New York Times story over the weekend.
Groves’ lawyer accused the university of making a “rush to judgement” for something his client did as a kid.
“Mimi was a kid when she did this,” attorney Shan Wu told Fox News Monday. “She’s appalled, and having said that, she’s not trying to excuse [her actions] in any way.”
“What she lost was her dream,” the lawyer added. “Like many athletes, she had worked most of her young adult life for a shot at going to a great school and being on their team. That was taken away from her in what can only be described as a rush to judgement.”
Galligan, of Leesburg Virginia, was in class at Heritage High School in Loudoun County last year when a friend texted him the video of Groves spitting out the racial slur.
“I can drive, n—–s!” Groves said in the clip while driving in traffic. She had sent the three-second clip to a friend through Snapchat in 2016.
Galligan, 18, whose mother is black and father is white, said he complained to school faculty but they ignored the video of the then-high school cheerleading captain.
So he held onto the video until he found the right time to publish.
“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” he told the Times.
In June, Galligan posted the video on social media in the midst of protests across the nation after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by police in Minnesota the month before.
Around that same time, Groves, who was an incoming freshman at the University of Tennessee, posted on her Instagram urging her followers to “protest, donate, sign a petition, rally, do something” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Times reported.
“You have the audacity to post this, after saying the N-word,” a person who Groves didn’t know wrote in response to her public post.
Groves’ admitted her actions were inexcusable.
“At the time, I didn’t understand the severity of the word, or the history and context behind it because I was so young,” Groves told the Times.
“It honestly disgusts me that those words would come out of my mouth,” she continued. “How can you convince somebody that has never met you and the only thing they’ve ever seen of you is that three-second clip?”
But her world came crashing down when her dream school pressured her to resign amid outrage from admissions officials, she told the Times.
“They’re angry, and they want to see some action,” an admissions official told to the Groves’ family, according to an audio recording reviewed by the Times.
On Twitter at the time, the university didn’t publicly name Groves, but acknowledged an incoming student would no longer attend due to controversy over a racist video.
“On Wednesday, following a racist video and photo surfacing on social media, Athletics made the decision not to allow a prospective student to join the Spirit Program. She will not be attending the university this fall,” the university posted on June 4.
Galligan says he has no regrets of sharing Groves’ video publicly.
“If I never posted that video, nothing would have ever happened,” he told the Times. “And because the internet never forgets, the clip will always be available to watch.
“I’m going to remind myself, you started something,” Galligan added. “You taught someone a lesson.”