The chaos at the United States Capitol affected college basketball, preventing the playing of the UMass-George Washington game

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

By Joel Alderman

In what may be a first in college basketball, a game was canceled or, at best, postponed, not because of the weather, not because of the pandemic, not because of travel delays, and not because of a mechanical malfunction in the building where the game was supposed to have taken place. All those things we have seen.

Rather, the game between the University of Massachusetts (2-3 at the time) and George Washington (then 4-7) was called off because of a riot. That’s something few of us have seen.

There has been no immediate word if or when the game between George Washington (3-7) and UMass (2-3) would be rescheduled, but the Atlantic 10 said it would work on it.

Same night as the riot

It should have been played on the night of Jan. 6th (Wednesday) in DC. But a few hours earlier all hell broke loose and the team decided to pack up and get out of town, even if D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had not announced a curfew for that night.

The Minutemen were about a mile away from the mob that stormed the Senate chambers as the process to certify the electoral votes was underway. Hours before the scheduled 6 pm start of the game, supporters of President Donald Trump were storming the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.

“There was a lot of coverage of what was going on in D.C. and being down there was concerning and worrisome. It might have been tough to focus then,” UMass senior Carl Pierre said after returning to the University in Amherst, Mass.

UMass coach Matt McCall said he’s never been prouder of his team.

The team saw trouble ahead the night before

The previous night the team bus arrived at the hotel in Washington where some 30 Trump supporters were congregating at an inside-outside bar. UMass coach Matt McCall said, they chanted “Trump” repeatedly at the players before saying how Joe Biden’s administration will ruin their college careers. The players kept quiet. They took their bags and walked into the hotel.

“The character that came out from our guys was second to none. It’s not easy to sit there and not retaliate. I couldn’t have been more proud of any win we’ve had, any basket being scored,” McCall said. “The fact that our guys showed that level of character showed me when they’re done playing this game, they’re going to be part of everything that’s right in this country and fixing everything that’s wrong.”

The hotel was close to the Capitol. McCall woke up early and saw people gathering at 7 a.m. He rode the elevator down with some of them. As the chaos began it became obvious that the team needed to vacate the area, and they knew the game that night could not happen.

Since some of the protesters were staying at the same hotel the group did not leave by way of the front door. Instead, the players and staff met on the second floor, then left through a back stairway that led to an alleyway, where the bus met them. It headed right toward the airport and away from the capitol.

Bigger than basketball and glad to be home

“It’s always going to be bigger than basketball,” Pierre felt. “It highlights the different treatment of people based on skin color. We all know that if African Americans are out there protesting, peaceful or not, it would have been a different outcome. It was a general feeling of shock. It was a historic day. We have not seen anything like that. We were glad to be home and safe.”

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