An Opinion Column
By Misty Green
In today’s world, violence is never condoned, and neither are racial slurs, but if both coincide within one situation, then where do we draw the line to which one is worse?
News has rapidly spread about the January 14, 2011 high school basketball game between Red Boiling Springs and Clay County, however the actual contest between the two rival schools was not the main topic of discussion.
For a moment, step back inside the mind of your past, and recall what it was like to interact with children while going through school. Every child can attest to feeling different in someway, but, try to remember how those often picked on would react after being taunted for their differences, over a period of time.
With changing world views and hate crimes on the rise, larger schools have felt the need to equip their school entrance way with metal detectors and security personnel, to try and deter students from carrying weapons on school campus.
Ever ponder the reasons why a student might feel the need to protect themselves?
For six years, the family of Isaiah Washington has resided in Red Boiling Springs, and for all of those years, they have come to love their hometown community.
“Isaiah was immediately accepted by the kids at Red Boiling Springs,” Isaiah’s mother, Helen Washington said, “with never a problem concerning the color of his skin. However, I can remember several games, where people have said very ugly things, and it seems to be getting worse,” Miss Washington added.
According to RBS Head Coach Michael Owens, Isaiah has never given him any kind of trouble, which is why his actions after this particular game, shocked a lot of people.
“I never dreamed Isaiah would have been the one to fight,” Coach Owens commented last Monday, recalling he knew that emotions were flaring from his two players which, according to him, were indeed being tagged with racial slurs during the game.
“I do not condone fighting,” Helen Washington said, “fighting is never the answer, and it completely shocked me, because my son has never even been involved with a fight.”
“I feel torn, because I believe with my whole heart that fighting is wrong. But even the wild protect their children when they are in danger, and if I heard someone calling my son something like that repeatedly, I’m not sure what I would do.”
After talking with several people who were at the game that night, and who witnessed the negative actions from both sides of the crowd, it seems there should be some kind of rule about unsportsmanlike conduct to be enforced in future games across the state.
If the alleged racial slurs were being said during the game, and referees were indeed asked to interveine, the situation should have been controlled by the adults present.
“It breaks my heart that all this happened,” Helen said, adding, “the RBS kids put up with so much, being at the lower part of the ladder, and they have worked hard to come along way. I don’t like it when we go up against other schools that use obscene language and try to make it where these kids can’t have fun playing the game.”
“Because the unsportsmanlike conduct and racial slurs weren’t nipped in the bud, and stopped when it first started taking place, it escalated to the point where Isaiah became provoked to stand up for himself. If handled, I know it would not have gotten out of hand like that,” she continued.
“It’s not the first time for the heckling and the name calling, because it has happened in years past, but this time, I guess it went too far.”
“I also feel terrible that the boys had to loose their position on the team as ball players, which they so loved,” Helen commented.
“All Isaiah does is play sports. When we lived in New York, he never played sports, but when we came here, he started playing sports and just really loved it.”
When asked if given the chance to do it over, would Isaiah make the same choice, Helen paused and said, “It was done in the heat of the moment, and I know if he was faced with the same situation, he would think about it this time.”
“I’m just sorry it happened,” she added.
“If he had done this in the past, you could see them banning him from ever playing again, but this is the first time this has ever happened, and I don’t agree with the punishment that was given. I think the punishment was too harsh, considering the circumstances surrounding the fight, and the fact that Coach Owens asked the referees to control the crowd, and the slurring was allowed to continue,” she added.
On a side note: Clay County Principal John Denton called the Macon County Chronicle, saying that he disagreed with the comment published in the January 18th edition, which stated… “The way I understand it, the administration of the school, nor the School Resource Officers, nor the Law Enforcement present did one thing to prevent what was going on,” RBS Principal Don Jones commented.
After speaking to Clay County Principal John Denton last week, he stated that he, nor his assistant principal, security guard, or his two coaches were ever made aware that there were any racial slurs going on.
“It was never brought to our attention, “Principal Denton said, “and believe me, if we had known that anything like that was going on, we would have put a stop to it,”
“Me and my assistant principal both made some rounds down in that corner, and I know some people, especially from over there, are going to feel like they were out of control, but I never really thought that,” Denton recalled.
According to Principal Denton, “Mr. Owens said he reported it to the referees with a few minutes left in the game, but the referees never mentioned it to any of us, if that was the case. I can tell you, I would not tolerate that kind of behavior, not from our crowd or anybody else’s crowd either,” he asserted.
When asked if he heard the racial slurs coming from the fans, he replied, “I didn’t hear any, but, I’m not going to say that something couldn’t have happened. If we were made aware of it, we would have done something about it.”
It is up to officials to forbid all forms of unsportsmanlike conduct during school sport games, either coming from the team, coaches, or attending crowd.