How racist ‘prank’ and a group chat derailed 2 high school football seasons

Video shows students "pointing and yelling dollar amounts at three Black students" in slave auction reenactment, according to reports.

Two separate California districts canceled high school football seasons last week over an apparent “slave auction” and a seemingly racist group chat, according to various reports.

Members of River Valley High School’s football team appear to be conducting a “slave auction” of black teammates in a video that made its way to Yuba City USD’s administrators last week, CNN reported. The students in the video were suspended from football, which meant the Northern California team no longer had enough players to compete, according to CNN.

“Reenacting a slave sale as a prank tells us that we have a great deal of work to do with our students so they can distinguish between intent and impact,” Superintendent Doreen Osumi wrote in a statement obtained by CNN. “They may have thought this skit was funny, but it is not; it is unacceptable and requires us to look honestly and deeply at issues of systemic racism.”

The video shows about a dozen students “pointing and yelling dollar amounts at three Black students standing in their underwear and up against a wall,” KCRA 3 reported. Along with taking disciplinary against some of the players, the Sacramento-area district will develop character training for the team’s coaches and players, according to media reports.

Another district not far from Yuba City canceled high school football after administrators were alerted to “a highly inappropriate group chat thread involving the majority of the Amador High School varsity football team,” Superintendent Torie F. Gibson said in a statement.

The Amador County USD team’s season was suspended on Sept. 17 when the chat initially surfaced. Players allegedly used the phrase “Kill the blacks,” though one player said that was a reference to the color of another team’s jerseys, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The severity of the allegations prompted administrators to launch an external investigation by an independent investigator as some of the allegations are being referred to law enforcement. Because that probe will take at least a month, all varsity football activities at the high school have been canceled. “Staff and students are entitled to a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment,” Gibson wrote. “This is our opportunity to live our values and beliefs, and we must act.”

Hazing also cancels high school football

Controversial behavior by high school football players elsewhere has forced administrators to forfeit games and cancel seasons. Repeated hazing incidents captured on video ended the high school football season before it began at the Middletown Area School District in central Pennsylvania in August.

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Cellphone video taken by players this summer showed “a group of students restraining two of their teammates and using a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment to poke the buttock areas of the students who were on the ground,” Middletown Area School District Superintendent Chelton Hunter said a letter to the community. The players involved were kicked off the team and the head coach resigned. The season was officially canceled a  few days later when the district received another video of a separate hazing incident in the same facility.

Football seasons were disrupted but not shut down at two other Pennsylvania districts that investigated hazing reports. The superintendent of one of the districts said he didn’t believe it would have been fair to punish students who were not involved in the incident. In Virginia, two football players in Hanover County Schools were charged on suspicion of assault after a hazing incident that temporarily suspended football season, WWBT reported.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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