Auburn football player Andrew Williams apologized to female Air Force veteran Ashley Ozyurt, through a statement released by the athletic department, for comments he made last week.
Williams, from Eagles Landing Christian Academy, and Dontavius Russell, from Carrollton, are freshmen defensive linemen who redshirted last season. The athletic department stated that Russell, while there at the time, didn’t participate in the incident.
Here’s the statement.
“On Tuesday, February 17th Auburn Athletics was made aware of an incident in the lobby area of Haley Center involving two student-athletes and an interaction with a fellow student and her service dog.
Based on conversations with the students, it’s our belief that neither of the student-athletes, Andrew Williams nor Dontavius Russell, did anything with disrespectful intent. From a distance, Andrew made noises trying to get the dog’s attention. He didn’t understand the purpose of the dog or realize that the student was a disabled veteran. Dontavius had no involvement in the interaction whatsoever as he was only walking to class.
Andrew offers the following message to the female student. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize for raising my voice. I was startled and totally misunderstood the situation. My mother and father who raised me both served in the military. I have tremendous respect for veterans. In the past week, I’ve learned a lot more about the role of service dogs for veterans and now better understand her courage to attend Auburn.”
The matter is under review by the university’s Office of Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity. We have and will continue to cooperate, and we understand the review must be allowed to follow its normal course.
Auburn has a long history of supporting the men and women who have served our country. We look forward to adding new programs and educational offerings that raise awareness about service dogs and the challenges that often impact those who serve. Both of the student-athletes affected by the incident were raised by military families and value all that Auburn does in support of the many military appreciation related activities.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn apologized to Ozyurt last Wednesday.
Ozyurt, 25, who has PTSD as a result of being sexual assaulted while she was in the military, was harassed while on the way to class, she told WTVM.com.
She uses a service dog “to help her cope with PTSD,” WTVM reported.