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Colorado State apologizes for students' pro-Russia chant directed at Ukrainian basketball player

The university said a small group of people chanted "Russia" at a Ukrainian player for Utah State on Saturday night.
Utah State Aggies guard Max Shulga (11) during the second half of a game against the Colorado State Rams on Feb. 4, 2023, in Fort Collins, Colo.
Utah State Aggies guard Max Shulga (11) during the second half of a game Saturday against the Colorado State Rams in Fort Collins, Colo.Isaiah J. Downing / USA TODAY Sports

Colorado State University is apologizing after some of its student spectators directed a pro-Russia chant at a Ukrainian player on the opposing basketball team Saturday night.

Officials tweeted they learned after the game "that a small group of individuals in our student section chanted 'Russia' at a student-athlete from Utah State, who is from Ukraine."

"On behalf of Colorado State, we apologize to the student-athlete and Utah State," the school said in a follow-up tweet.

"Every participant, student, and fan should feel welcomed in our venues, and for something like this to have occurred is unacceptable at Colorado State," the tweet thread concluded.

The university didn't name the student who was targeted. NBC affiliate KSL of Salt Lake City reported that Utah State junior guard Max Shulga was the target of the chant, which occurred while he was attempting free throws near the end of the game.

Shulga was born in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, and attended high school in Spain, according to his official biography.

KSL reported last year that Shulga's family still lives in Kiev and that he draped a Ukrainian flag over himself at the start of the first game after Russia invaded Ukraine. Utah State students also held up yellow and blue papers resembling the Ukrainian flag at that game to show their support for Shulga.

The yearlong war has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians and soldiers, as well as Russian troops' committing sexual violence and torture against women and children in Ukraine, along with other war crimes, according to a United Nations investigation.

Utah State Athletics condemned the incident in a statement on Sunday, calling it "inappropriate and unacceptable," and it said both the athletics department and the university support Shulga and his family in Ukraine.

"We appreciate the Colorado State administration and basketball staff for not condoning such behavior," the statement concluded.

In a statement to NBC News, Colorado State's assistant vice president of communications, Greg Harrison, said that the university directs its apology to Shulga and the Utah State basketball team and its fans and that the CSU students or employees who participated in the chant could be subject to disciplinary action.

"If a student or employee was involved [in the chant] and can be identified, they would be subject to a review under the student code of conduct," Harrison said. "Based on the findings of a code of conduct review, a student or employee can be prohibited from entering future athletic events, among other actions."

Utah State won the game 88-79.