What We Learned From ‘The N-Word’ Section of Cal’s Teri McKeever Investigation

Published Jan 31st, 2023

Cal’s nearly 500-page investigatory report into Teri McKeever detailed an incident last spring in which the Bears’ former women’s swimming coach used the n-word while mimicking rap lyrics, sparking the initial probe that turned into an eight-month saga and ultimately resulted in her termination on Tuesday.

The incident in question occurred in a meeting room with some, but not all, members of the team present. McKeever allegedly said something along the lines of “I don’t like the rap music you guys listen to these days.” Then she allegedly did an impression of modern rap, reciting “F this and F that” but opting for the unabbreviated form of the n-word. The law firm commissioned by Cal to conduct the investigation interviewed three swimmers who present for the incident, and all three claimed she used the unabridged version of the n-word.

McKeever denied having memory of using the n-word, but it came with a caveat.

“Coach McKeever said that she did not typically use the full n-word,” the report said on page 88. “She stated, however, that if the swimmers said she said it, it is possible that she did, but it was supposed to be an educational statement about not playing such lyrics over a speaker.”

The report concluded that McKeever used the n-word on one occasion, but that, by itself, wasn’t enough to constitute a hostile environment. However, when paired with her pattern of conduct toward two Black swimmers on the team — whom she “more likely than not” referred to as “diversity recruits” — McKeever’s actions created a racially hostile environment.

“We conclude that Coach McKeever’s use of the n-word on one occasion in the course of describing what sort of language she did not want played on the pool speakers did not, in isolation, constitute conduct that was sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to limit or interfere with an individual’s ability to participate in Cal swimming,” the report found. “It is undisputed that Coach McKeever used the n-word to illustrate the sort of language she did not want to hear and not as a reference to another person.

“When considered together with Coach McKeever’s entire pattern of conduct with Swimmer A and Swimmer B, we find a hostile environment. We conclude that Coach McKeever subjected both Swimmer B and Swimmer A to a racially hostile environment by singling Swimmer A out for negative scrutiny by her teammates, by calling her a [redacted], by commenting on Swimmer A’s appearance and demeanor in a manner evocative of racial stereotypes, by inappropriately grouping Swimmer A and Swimmer B in both personality and speed, and by using the n-word on one occasion, in an incident that was not witnessed by Swimmer A or Swimmer B, but that they learned about from their teammates. A preponderance of the evidence shows that this hostile environment was pervasive or persistent and that it interfered with both Swimmer B’s and Swimmer’s ability to participate in or benefit from the swimming program at Cal. Both described the significant mental and emotional toll the environment took on them throughout the year and their avoidance of optional practices following the incident in which Coach McKeever used the n-word.”

The Munger, Tolles & Olson investigation focused on six areas of allegations, although two were redacted from the report. They included sustained verbal abuse and targeting certain swimmers for abusive conduct, pressure to divulge personal information and/or mishandling personal information, pressure to swim through injury, and fostering a negative team environment.

After interviewing 147 people and reviewing 1,700 documents, the investigation found “by a preponderance of the evidence that Coach McKeever discriminated against certain student-athletes in certain instances, on the basis of race, national origin and disability.” The report also found McKeever’s behavior “toward some, but not all, student-athletes in some instances was abuse and violated University policy.”

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eric rhodes
1 month ago

Too bad to see Mc K’s groundbreaking & successful career end on such a sour note. Surely her monumental achievements, including Coughlin, Vollmer, Baker, etc. etc. could not be based on hateful racist practices and mistreatment of athletes. Sorry to see that no amount of sincere apologetics, hefty fines, pay cuts, public atonements, loss of prestige, and so on would not have amended the situation; but that’s modern politics! And wasn’t it Skip Kenney who said :” The evil men do lives on after them; the good is often interred with their bones”?

Steve Nolan
Reply to  eric rhodes
1 month ago

So your read of her statement was of someone that was atoning.


Former Big10
1 month ago

Wonder if Teri is doing anything special today!?

Last edited 1 month ago by Former Big10
Ole 99
1 month ago

Honest question here…. I assume she was terminated with cause, hence the lawsuit threat. Am I wrong to suggest they should have just initiated a buyout of her contract/fired her without fault/convince? She made +/- $200k a year on a contract that ran through 2024 school year (I thought I read that somewhere so correct me if I’m wrong). The legal bill for the investigation and then to defend the inevitable lawsuit will be higher than the remaining contract after a buyout. This will just drag on and make it more expensive.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ole 99
Reply to  Ole 99
1 month ago

From a financial perspective, yes.

But I think there are probably other ‘soft cost’ considerations at play, including looking at the administration’s role.

Leslie Hope
Reply to  Ole 99
1 month ago

Not to mention the strong likelihood of her winning the lawsuit.

1 month ago

I read the entire report. It took 5 hours. Well investigated, incredibly detailed, incredible analysis. And horribly sad for so many young women.

Coaches should at least read the executive summary as it is a “what not to do/how not to coach” storyline. And if you think her behavior is okay after even reading part of this report, you shouldn’t be working with young people. Period.

Swim fan
Reply to  Snarky
1 month ago

Thank you for reading it so as to bear witness to their stories.

Happy Slappy
1 month ago

There is so much redacted that there really is not much there. I believe there are more people showing support for McKeever than the other way around. Of course half of it is redacted so we do not see much of the complaint. But for what is shown…it is tame compared to some male age group coaches.

Reply to  Happy Slappy
1 month ago

Redactions are done due to federal and state educational or healthcare laws. And there is plenty or there there. And whataboutism isn’t an excuse for her behavior.

1 month ago

Teri McKaren

Reply to  Teddy
1 month ago

Cmon good sir. Using a racist term to devalue someone accused of racism.

Reply to  highswimcoach
1 month ago

Karen isn’t a racist term dum dum

Ronald Regan Smith
Reply to  hillbilly
1 month ago

“iT’s aNti-WhIte rAcIsM!!!”

-most right-wing SwimSwam commenters

Reply to  hillbilly
1 month ago

It’s a derogatory term with part attribution to being a female and to being a certain skin color…it is both racist and sexist.
FWIW also not right wing at all lol.

Cars 3
1 month ago

Diversity recruits is crazy. It’s literally swim and dive how could u refer to a kid who commits to your program as just checking a box on a skin color so you have “enough” on your team

worlds fastest 49.xx 100 freestyler
1 month ago

as serious as this issue is, this has got to be the most ironic article to be posted today

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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