As someone who has had high school athletics be a major part of their lives for the last 40 years, there has been a disturbing trend recently.
Racial slurs and taunting of athletes, cheerleaders, and coaches is getting more and more out of control. In fact, it seems like students at games throughout the nation are running unchecked in what they say and do.
It has hit home in California throughout this school year and has reared its ugly head multiple times in the last few weeks.
Two incidents revolved around CIF Northern California Soccer playoffs, one in a girls’ game and one at a boys’ match.
The first came on March 1 at a CIF first round boys’ game when Sanger from the Fresno area was at De La Salle.
The group from Sanger accused De La Salle students of yelling “Juan” or “Edgar” at Latino players. They also said the students were yelling “Do you need a burrito?” at the players.
After the game, the accusations worsened when Sanger representative accused an adult who was working in the De La Salle press box of approaching the Sanger contingent and saying, “This is America – you guys need to learn English.”
De La Salle’s administration investigated and after two dozen interviews have been unable to corroborate the incidents. They have pledged they will continue to investigate.
Sanger’s officials have said publicly they stand behind their story.
Four days later, in the girls’ NorCal title game with Buchanan of Clovis traveling to Oak Ridge in El Dorado Hills there were reports of a Black Buchanan player being subjected to “gorilla” sounds as she was taking her penalty kick in the shootout.
This time there is video evidence, and the sounds are clearly audible as the player is taking the kick. I have watched two different videos from the incident, and it is appalling. I have not found out if the Oak Ridge student has been identified or if there has been a punishment at this point.
In January, Laguna Hills High was hosting Portola High in a basketball game when a Black player was taunted with “where is the slave owner?” as well as “who let him out of his chains?” and “he’s a monkey”.
Once again there was video evidence and clear audio of the slurs. Also appalling and pathetic.
Laguna Hills High is part of the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. The district investigated and conducted interviews before determining it was indeed a Laguna Hills student who made the comment.
It was reported that the student was counseled and disciplined. Students who witnessed the incident were advised of their responsibility to “redirect such language,” and immediately report it to school administrators.
This past week, I got reports of some racial slurs in a local baseball game, where a coach of one of the teams was also repeatedly taunted by a group of students. The case has been reported to the school district, but nothing has come out of it thus far.
Early in the recently completed winter season, one local high school had issues with their students yelling racial slurs during a home basketball game.
More disconcerting is this type of behavior has moved into the schools. And it’s involving every ethnic group at the schools.
I work at a middle school and see it daily. My wife works at a high school and sees and hears it daily as well.
We sent seven kids through the Pleasanton Unified School District, with our youngest graduating high school in 2015. I went through PUSD myself, graduating from Amador in 1979.
As a sportswriter and then local sports editor of the former Tri-Valley Herald, I covered high school sports for 26 years and now have been with the Pleasanton Weekly for 10 years.
I have been around Pleasanton schools as a student, parent, and a reporter for most of my life and what bothers me the most is I have never seen such divisiveness in our schools.
It is daily that I see and hear different ethnic groups complaining about another ethnic group. It is shocking that it has become the norm. If you don’t believe it is happening, then your head is in the sand.
My wife and I talk about this nightly and are both frustrated with what we see and hear daily.
When I was raised in Pleasanton, there weren't different colors, there were just classmates. I never thought about my friend’s ethnicity, just thought that they were my friends. That’s it.
I can remember in middle school being taught about the message Martin Luther King preached and it fell right in line with how we were being raised.
King’s quote “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of the character” is the way we should all live.
I think a lot of Dr. King’s message has been lost.
By the time some of these kids hit high school it has been instilled that people are different, rather than just being classmates. The message has changed since I grew up in Pleasanton.
As a result, you get these knuckleheads hurling racial taunts at sporting events. In so many ways we are regressing, not evolving, and it doesn’t surprise me this is happening.
That’s what stings the most.
Sports is what should be bringing us together, not something that throws gasoline on the fire of division.
I am an eternal optimist and I believe we will find our way out of this horrible time. But we must work together, not against, each other.
My message to anyone who reads this is to embrace your fellow human beings without looking at color. Remember, we are all the same and should not divided by ethnicity or beliefs.
We are one – that’s the only thing the students need to understand. Don’t promote one ethnicity over another – promote everyone together.
As Dr. King said, don’t judge someone by their color of their skin, but by the content of character. That’s how we raised our kids and our kids are now raising their kids.