St. John's fencing coach Boris Vaksman fired after saying 'Lincoln made a mistake' by freeing slaves
St. Johns fired assistant fencing coach Boris Vaksman after a video surfaced that he made hateful statements about blacks and said that President Abraham Lincoln made a mistake when he freed slaves.
Bradford Davis of the New York Daily News reports that Vaksman made the comments during a youth coaching session with the Fencers Club, an elite club in Manhattan that serves as a training ground for college and Olympic fencers.
The video was first publicly released by Ibtihaj Muhammad, a bronze medalist at the 2016 Olympics and the first Muslim American to wear a hijab during an Olympic competition. According to the report, the recording comes from a zoom call on June 3.
"They steal, they kill"
Bradford William Davis
NEW: Boris Vaskman, fencing coach of @StJohnsU D1, was fired for telling Abe "Lincoln made a mistake" when he helped free all these enslaved blacks.
This video was made available to me and spreads the fencing community on Instagram. Story here:
7:40 p.m. - June 11, 2020
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"Because most problems come from where? ... Blacks, ”said Vaksman. "Because they don't want to work, they steal, they kill, they drugs, everything comes from them. The majority, the majority.
"I think what's his name - Lincoln made a mistake."
Vaksman then laughed when the video went black.
"This is what racism looks like"
Muhammad wrote in her Instagram post that statements like Vaksmans help normalize racism.
"This is what fencing racism looks like, a smaller piece of a larger puzzle," wrote Muhammad. "This video is a reminder that coaches and teachers who are responsible for building, educating and protecting us are too often continuing the discriminatory treatment and behavior that normalizes racism."
Boris Vaksman, left, lost his job after saying that black people steal, kill, and use drugs. (Doug Stroud / NCAA photos via Getty Images)
Vaksman a pillar of the fencing community
According to his fencer club biography, Vaksman moved from Ukraine to the USA in 1989, where he won four national championships, four Soviet Union championships and 56 medals in fencing. From 2005 to 2009 he was the coach of the US junior national team and was hired at St. Johns in 2006.
He coached several national individual champions in St. Johns and led the team to four top three finishes at NCAA championships. His St. John's biography has been deleted.
Answers to Vaksman's comments
St. Johns fired Vaksman on Wednesday after the video surfaced.
"As soon as we were made aware of the admission, the matter was investigated immediately and the person no longer worked at the university," said Michael Cragg, St. John's sports director, in a statement. "The racist statements are completely unacceptable and a rejection of everything that the university stands for."
The Daily News received an email from the Fencers Club mentioning the suspension of a "long-time trainer" who suggested that Vaksman could eventually be reinstated.
"Since we will simply not tolerate inappropriate behavior in our community, we have today suspended a long-time Fencers Club trainer because their behavior and words were completely unacceptable and did not match our community's values," the email said.
“The suspension will only be met if the conditions for the suspension, including awareness training, are met. When they return, they also have to do community service. "
USA Fencing also confirmed the video in an Instagram post on Wednesday evening.
"Today, USA Fencing became aware of an audio recording of a fencing coach that contained virulently racist comments against the Black Community," the statement said. “We are disgusted with these statements, which are racist and offensive and have no place in the fencing community in the United States or in society as a whole.
“USA Fencing stands with our black athletes and all underrepresented minorities within the fencing family and will immediately conduct an investigation. We will take steps to protect our athletes and all members who may be harassed, marginalized or otherwise injured by such behavior. "
Vaksman has not publicly responded to the video's backlash or release.
Yury Gelman, the head fencing coach at St. John, also did not respond publicly, but instead emailed the incident to members of the team who purchased the Daily News.
"I am writing to inform you that we have recently been made aware of a situation with Coach Vaksman," wrote Gelman. "The university immediately checked the matter and he will no longer work with our team. As current members of the fencing program, I wanted you to be the first to know and to assure you that I fully support this decision. "
St. Johns was number 4 in the nation before the fencing season closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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