Racism Rears Its Head at High School Basketball Games
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).