Researcher claiming UNC athletes read like 3rd-graders receives death threats

"It's really OK because I'm telling the truth," says Mary Willingham.
Posted By Evan Bleier   |   Jan. 10, 2014 at 8:18 AM
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After releasing report claiming that between eight percent and 10 percent of University of North Carolina football and basketball players are reading below a third-grade level, researcher Mary Willingham said she is receiving death threats.

UNC released a statement about the article on Wednesday evening:

“We do not believe that claim and find it patently unfair to the many student-athletes who have worked hard in the classroom and on the court and represented our University with distinction,” read an excerpt.

Even though it sounds as if the school is turning its back on Willingham -- a learning specialist employed at UNC -- the university’s Department of Public Safety is still looking out for her.

University police said they "making effort to reach out and investigate the nature of the threats."

Willingham said she's received more than 30 other disturbing messages and four death threats.

"Not people who disagree, people who put in the subject or body (of the e-mail) straight-up hate speech," she said. "It's really OK because I'm telling the truth."

As an advisor working with athletes in the at-risk summer program, Willingham told CNN she analyzed data for 183 athletes admitted to UNC-CH between 2004 and 2012 and found that 60 percent had reading scores that equated to fourth- through eighth-grade levels, she said.

Following UNC’s loss to Miami on Wednesday night, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said the claims in Willingham’s article were “not true.”

“Anybody can make any statement they want to make, but that is not fair,” Williams said. “The University of North Carolina does not do that. The University of North Carolina does not stand for that. I don’t believe it is true, and I am really bothered by the whole thing. People have taken their chances and have beaten up on us for quite a while. We are going to survive this. I am really proud of my kids.”

[CNN] [Chapelboro] [CNN]

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