Local News

Defaced Yow mural painted over pink

Posted February 1, 2009 11:08 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Student government leaders and fraternity members couldn't stand to see the insult – a spray-painted tribute to Kay Yow defaced with blue graffiti and phrases celebrating the cancer that killed North Carolina State University's longtime women's basketball coach.

By Sunday morning, the Free Expression Tunnel on N.C. State's campus was plastered with pink paint – the universal color of breast-cancer awareness. It covered the obscenities and defaced portions of the mural.

After learning what had happened, NCSU Student Body President Jay Dawkins said he and several members of the student government went at 2:30 a.m. to paint over it.

A group of students came later in the morning to paint the tunnel the color of their co-ed fraternity, Alpha Zeta. Instead, they chose to paint it pink.

Student Blake Burnette had painted the mural – showing Yow's face and name intertwined with a pink ribbon, against a pink background – Jan. 26 after Yow, 66, died Jan. 24.

But sophomore Forbes Starling, 19, said that he heard from other students that Yow’s mural was defaced after the N.C. State men's basketball team's home game against rival University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Saturday.

A light-blue mustache was painted on Yow’s face, and spray-painted phrases included “Cancer rules” and profanity.

Dawkins said the comments were also painted in light blue and made reference to the rivalry between N.C. State and UNC.

“What was said here was certainly hurtful and painful and goes beyond any type of rivalry these two campuses might have,” Dawkins said.

Burnette told WRAL News on Sunday he was glad to find students painting over the controversial comments.

“I just told them, ‘thank you.’ That was awesome that someone even cared enough about it. It just shows the students how much we appreciate what she did for this university,” Burnette said.

Sgt. John Seay, with N.C. State campus police, said it is unknown who defaced the mural. Automated surveillance cameras monitor both sides of the tunnel, but Seay did not know if they captured the act.

NCSU police have been briefed about the graffiti, but it will not likely be treated as a criminal matter, Seay said.

Starling said it is common for rival teams to write statements on the tunnel following games. The tunnel is normally under watch prior to games.

“I would hate to think that a Carolina student or fan would ever do something like that. Kay Yow was a model for all of us, and the Carolina family mourns her loss along with all of our N.C. State friends,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement Sunday evening.

The Free Expression Tunnel made headlines in November, when four students admitted to painting racial slurs following the presidential election.