Fans targeted black player for racist taunts during NJ high school game, principal says
DOVER — The controversy over President Donald Trump's signature plan to build a border wall has hit a New Jersey high school.
Dover schools Superintendent Robert Becker wrote in a message on the school's website that the boys basketball team was taunted as the team warmed up before their game at Jefferson High School in Morris County last Friday.
Among the taunts were “ashy knees” and “build the wall” as well as "a variety of racial slurs" during the game, according to Becker.
"Our Athletic Director is filing a formal complaint on the county level, and at the State level with the NJSIAA," Becker wrote. "Our High School Principal has been meeting with Parents and Students to verify and validate our concerns. I personally feel a sense of anger and frustration that our students were subjected to speech which was discriminatory and hateful in nature. This cannot be tolerated and will not stand."
Earlier in the week Trump had signed an executive order authorizing the construction of a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.
Becker did not believe enough was done to stop the taunts.
"What we feel should have been done by the hosting school was the employment of immediate action to curtail the hateful speech and behavior, ejecting those responsible while employing corrective action," the superintendent wrote in his statement.
Dover High School principal Robert Franks told NJ.com he agreed with Becker. His investigation into the matter indicated one African -American player on the Tigers was targeted for the taunts every time he took a free throw throughout the game, according to the report.
The Patch of Mendam reported that Jefferson students were urged to wear "American-themed apparel" to the game and many students wore not only red, white and blue clothing but red "Make America Great" caps and T-shirts. The slogan was used by Trump during his campaign.
“There is no place in interscholastic sports for any individual associated with a member school, be they a spectator, student-athlete, or staff member, who engages in harassing verbal or physical conduct related to race, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or religion. NJSIAA’s policies – which were among the first in the nation of their type – clearly outline expectations and punishments. They also detail the association’s ongoing training programs and communication protocols that provide a framework for addressing such issues.
NJSIAA Executive Director Steven Timko said in a statement on Wednesday both schools have submitted reports on the incident which have been shared with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights in the Attorney General¹s Office.
Dover High School has less than 900 students, an overwhelming majority of whom are Hispanic. Jefferson High School has more than 1,000 students, of whom just 72 were Hispanic and 10 were black, according to 2015 data from the U.S. Department of Education.
Cheri Moore, a parent of a Dover student, posted on Facebook that the Jefferson fans turned their backs as the Dover team was introduced.
"Fans dressed in the amerikkkan flag and trump shirts to begin with. Knowing damn well our team is mixed with Afro American and Hispanic boys," Moore wrote.
Becker urged his district to follow the advice once given by former First Lady Michelle Obama and take the high road and to stay off social media.
"Stand tall, be proud, and let us use the systems in place to seek systemic answers to our concerns. You are better than this, we are better than this," Becker wrote.
Jefferson schools Superintendent Patrick Tierney acknowledged the incident in a statement on the district website and apologized for an "unfortunate situation" that is being investigated by the NJSIAA.
"Like every school or community, our community is comprised of many different and unique individuals. It is the district’s and parents’ responsibility to teach our students to accept the differences of their peers, to show appreciation of others, and to demonstrate good sportsmanship. Unfortunately, the actions of a few have now tarnished the reputation of an outstanding student body, school, and community and for that, I am very sorry."
Timko said the schools will have to submit action plans "to satisfy both the letter and spirit of the NJSIAA sportsmanship policy. If they are unable to fulfill that obligation, the matter will go to the controversies committee of their own conference, the New Jersey Athletic Conference. If necessary, NJSIAA will convene its controversies committee, which will intercede as necessary."
The NJSIAA repeated its belief that the venue for a sports event is an extension of the classroom. “Frankly, given the fan culture at the professional and even college level, it’s a constant battle to reinforce that high school athletics, while entertaining, are not entertainment. Rather, they’re an extension of the classroom,' Adults – administrators, coaches, officials, teachers, parents, and journalists – need to be mindful of the distinctions between the different levels of sport," Timko said.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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