Thursday, February 12, 2009

Racism Rears Its Head at High School Basketball Games

I had heard about this brawl that occurred last week at a basketball game between Garfield players and Redmond players at Redmond. One Redmond student came out of the stands, went on the court and punched a Garfield player. It went from there as the Garfield players cleared the bench although it is highly likely that a lot went on before that student jumped onto the court.

The Seattle PI published a front-page story today about the issue of racist behavior when some Seattle schools travel to the Eastside to play. From the article:

"No one wants to talk about it, and we can deny it all we want, but there are misunderstandings and prejudgings on all sides going on before anyone even steps out the door," said Garfield Principal Ted Howard, spreading blame across the board. "We all have a part in this."

Howard urges more regular mixing between city and suburban students at events other than highly charged sports contests, anything that might encourage teens from different backgrounds to get to know one another better.

Parents and coaches agreed that might help. But players and fans recall a long tradition of sports trash talk that can edge toward racism and sometimes becomes part of the backdrop to high school athletics."

"He (Dan Jurdy, athletic director at RBHS) recalled a particularly bitter instance where Eastside fans derisively sneered "SAT score, SAT score" to a Rainier Beach player whom, they assumed, would not have grades good enough for college.

"If it was an Eastside kid would they be talking the same?" Jurdy asked. "It made the kid play harder, but man, it bothered him."

Nick Ragland-Johnsen, 19, who is part black, played football for Franklin High and graduated last June, experienced similar smears."

"Oh yes, everything you can think of, I probably heard it on the Eastside," he said. "I tried to ignore it, but it was kind of degrading -- to my teammates as well as me."

Their coach, he said, simply counseled the players to use the taunts as motivation."

There's a lot to be said here. I vividly remember high school basketball games and when you are in a closed space (unlike football) where a game can be close, fans sit close by each other, the noise is deafening and you can see the players talking to each other, it is just electric. You know that the trash talk is on. In some ways, it is part of the game.

HOWEVER, the coaches can tell their players about unacceptable behavior. Refs can be aware of what is being said. Schools' administrators can tell students (indeed put up a code of conduct at the door) what will happen if any racist comments are made (and yes, I'd put the SAT chant in that camp). A lot of what happens is by a few people in a small group but because you can hear a lot of what is said easily at a basketball game, those few can cause trouble. They need to be rooted out and thrown out (the boy who jumped on the court had previously been in trouble for this behavior).

7 comments:

emeraldkity said...

need to be rooted out and thrown out (the boy who jumped on the court had previously been in trouble for this behavior

Id like to know why this young man was still admitted to the games.

I hated going to several of my daughters basketball games= she played rec league ball when she was in grade school- but sitting on the edge of the court- watching some of the opposing players become very physically aggressive, so aggressive that one 9yr old was expelled from the game, and cried because she didn't really understand why.

I blame the coaches and the parents in that instance. Parents can be very competitive and disregard what their kids are learning by needing to win at all costs.

We were so fortunate to have a fantastic coach, although my daughter stopped playing when he retired a few years later. She was not a strong player, but her teammates with the help of the coaches, designed a play to be used at games ( she did better at practice), that gave her maximum opportunity to make a shot at the basket.
( her coaches also gave her maximum court/field time- regardless of the score)

They learned alot about collaborative effort on their sports teams and yes I realize competitive high school sports are a different level, but why let the need to win excuse bad behavior- especially when it can be anticipated.

Remember the CWU softball game last spring against Western Oregon when the young woman who had hit the ball over the fence, but hurt her knee at 1st base was carried around the bases by the CWU players?

Just reading the article made me cry ( and not because I was thinking about ACL surgery)

Competition( except in sport for boxing) is not about injuring the other team, and certainly not about fans injuring the opposite team.

I wasn't at the game- the only Garfield games I had attended have been basketball finals in the Tacoma Dome, and from my perspective- behavior was good by all teams at that venue.

However- my daughter continued to play sports in middle/high school both Kingco league and rec league sports & some teams are known for trash talk and aggressive behavior ( which seems to mirror the views of the spectators/parents- a few schools are particularly bad)

Like I said I didn't attend the Redmond game, but from what I have seen and heard, it isn't racism so much as classism- because vitriol is spewed regardless of the race of the players.


( hmm- both of Ds most longtime favorite coaches were attorneys- Doug Dunham & Steve Brown I wonder if that means anything?

TechyMom said...

Funny, though, Garfield has very high SAT scores. It also makes the 100 Best Schools list every year, and Redmond does not. Oh, and it draws from the neighborhoods along Lake Washington, which include some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Bullies are so often just plain wrong.

emeraldkity said...

Because I am OCD about things I know about- ***smile***
Technically- students that attend in the Lake Washington school district who live along Lake Washington, would attend Lake Washington high school ( as I did)
Students in Bellevue district, who live along Lake Washington, would probably attend Bellevue high school.

Students who attend Redmond are usually more in the Microsofty area- Lake Sammamish would be closer ( there are also students who attend Garfield who live on Lake Washington- I also have to comment that although a Redmond student started it- I haven't read any reports that indicate Redmond players left the bench)

I lived on the Eastside for 20+ years, my perception is classism exists because of fear/ignorance or both sides.

Being downwardly mobile could be catching you know!

hschinske said...

I think TechyMom meant that Garfield draws from the neighborhoods on the *western* side of Lake Washington -- the Seattle side -- not that Redmond draws from those on the eastern shores of the lake.

I'm sorry to hear that such name-calling continues: it's very like what used to happen at basketball games when I was in high school (not that I ever went, but I used to hear stories). So much for sportsmanship.

Helen Schinske

TechyMom said...

Yes, I meant that Garfield draws from the west side of Lake Washington: Madison Park, Madrona, Leschi, Mount Baker, etc. Yes, it also draws from some low income neighborhoods, but Garfield includes many high income students. So, a bully making class slurs at Garfield is not only rude, but also wrong.

Melissa Westbrook said...

When I wrote about the atmosphere at a high school basketball game, I was channeling my high school experience. I was raised in an Arizona border town with many Hispanics and boy, did we hear it when we went to the big city (Tucson). So yes, it's painful that it still goes on.

You can't control everyone but a school certainly can set the tone. I recall in the movie, Bring It On, about competitive cheerleading (okay, quit laughing, it's pretty tough stuff even with the short skirts and dancing). One of the cheers that the cheerleaders used was "That's alright, that's okay, you'll be pumping our gas someday." Naturally, you wouldn't aim this cheer at Lakeside if you were from Bush.

So I'll cop to this - yes, I was a dedicated cheerleader in high school - but only to say we would have NEVER been allowed to say a cheerlike that and we wouldn't have anyway. We used to buy sodas, at every single football and basketball game, for the other squad. Did we love the other team/cheerleaders/fans? Of course not but the bad-mouthing was kept to a minimum.

Win because you're the best, not because you can incite someone to foul or ruin the game.

emeraldkity said...

techymom- Im sorry- I am just VERY literal- but I should have realized what you meant.

I am also glad that schools are different than when I was in high school- going to Lake Wa in the 70's we didn't have the same atmosphere as some small Texas towns do now, ( plus we did pretty well in Kingco league- so we could be magnanimous)

the private school didn't even have cheerleaders- ( or football) Summit had little kids to cheer at high school games ( which was adorable) and @ Garfield, I've never heard them do an inappropriate cheer- it should be about encouraging your team/fans, not hating on the other team.

I like what is a tradition in rugby- After the game, the home team provides food and drinks for the other team. Civilized ( or if you are in Australia, not so..)