Sgt. Michael Smith was one of five police officers killed in Dallas last July, leaving behind a wife and two daughters.
One of his daughters, 14-year-old Victoria, is reportedly a talented player on the Knights Volleyball Academy team, recently scoring an invite to make an honorary serve at Southern Methodist University (SMU)’s game versus South Florida last Saturday.
As NBC DFW reports, Smith’s wife, Heidi, explained how the gesture meant to honor her late husband’s life, but Victoria received an email Thursday saying her invitation to make an honorary serve in her father’s name had been rescinded.
The message from an unnamed SMU official explained how “recent events,” most likely the results of the presidential election, affected their decision:
Hello again Heidi,
I regret to inform you that we will not be able to go through with the honorary first serve. In the switch between staff members and the handling of volleyball promotions, some information was not forwarded on correctly from (name omitted) to myself and I deeply apologize for that.
The volleyball program was not correctly informed that this would be taking place at the game, and feels that in light of recent events and diversity within the SMU community, that the demonstration could be deemed insensitive.
However, the coaching staff would like to still do something for Victoria and the team. They are invited to stay after the game for an autograph session with the players, if you would like.
Again, they apologize for the inconvenience and late notice, especially in regards to the sensitivity of this matter.
I do hope that you all will still join us on Saturday. If you would like to discuss this further, you can reach me at (name and # omitted).
She shared the email on Facebook:
I received the following email today from SMU. Victoria was scheduled to serve an honorary serve at the SMU volleyball…
A day later, the university reversed its decision, but the damage had already been done, according to the Smith family.
The teen called the entire situation “poorly handled,” leaving her infuriated:
“I was just angry after the first one. They just don’t want to because they were afraid.
The second one was them just not wanting to get hurt by what they said, just to cover it up.”
Heidi added that she firmly believes politics played a large role in SMU’s decision:
“To me, that was a cowardly way of saying the results of this election.”
I really feel like the decision was made out of fear of what evil might come of it instead of the good that could have come out of it.”
According to the Dallas News, a university spokeswoman sent a statement Friday morning explaining the mix-up was due to a change in staffing and had nothing to do with Victoria or her family:
The SMU Volleyball program extends its sincere apologies to the Smith family and is reaching out this morning to speak directly to Mrs. Smith to apologize and reinforce that the invitation stands. This incident does not reflect SMU values. Due to a change in staffing, there was a breakdown in communication that led to this unfortunate situation. This communication to Mrs. Smith would never have occurred if proper approval and communications procedures had been followed. The invitation was intended to help a family heal, and we very much look forward to Victoria’s first serve in the volleyball match Saturday.
SMU values the service and sacrifices of all first responders and honored Victoria’s father, Sgt. Michael Smith, as well as Dallas police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, and Patrick Zamarripa, DART Officer Brent Thompson, SMU Officer Mark McCullers and University Park Fire Department Chief Bob Poynter at the annual First Responders football game earlier this fall.
Though SMU ended up winning its volleyball match Saturday, the Smith family was not in attendance.