CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) — A North Carolina high school basketball playoff game already mired in controversy took another turn Tuesday when a player for a predominantly white school was suspended for targeting a racial slur toward the predominantly black school it was scheduled to play.
Ardrey Kell High School coach Mike Craft said the Snapchat post using the slur in reference to West Charlotte High School prompted an indefinite suspension Monday, the day before its playoff game, The Charlotte Observer reported.
“A very swift and appropriate decision was reached to immediately suspend the player indefinitely,” Craft said in a statement.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools issued a statement Tuesday supporting Craft’s action.
“Racist behavior and actions are repugnant to educational ideals, contrary to CMS and community values, and will not be tolerated within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools,” the statement said. “The student athlete has been suspended indefinitely from athletic participation. CMS also continues to investigate this matter and further disciplinary actions may be taken according to the CMS Student Code of Conduct.”
The player’s parents also issued a statement to local media, saying the family is “devastated.”
“While we stand by our son, and love him deeply, we do recognize the wrong and hurt caused by careless words,” the parents’ statement said.
A reporter for the newspaper tweeted Tuesday night that the West Charlotte athletic director said people lined up “50 deep” trying to get a view through the gymnasium windows. The crowd, announced as a sellout, was predominantly for West Charlotte, according to the reporter.
West Charlotte pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 69-53.
Before word of the slur and the punishment came out, the game itself was causing tension.
As the higher-seeded team, West Charlotte was supposed to be the host for the playoff game, but the North Carolina High School Athletic Association said its gym was too small. Supporters asserted the move to a neutral site was based on race and socioeconomics.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association said in a statement that its bylaws and policies give it the right to determine when and where a playoff game will be played. The statement cited a rule which said the association “has the right to require host teams to find an adequate facility based on expected attendance or quality of venue.”
According to the association, when it was determined that the expected attendance for the playoff game would exceed the capacity of West Charlotte’s gym, the association asked the school system to work with West Charlotte to find a suitable neutral location. The game was moved to Vance High School.
“This never was about race. It was about my decision to help everyone involved,” said Que Tucker, NCHSAA commissioner. “I believe it gives more people an opportunity to support their teams. … I am disappointed and saddened that it reached the level that it did. I stand by the decision. It was not about race. It was about seating.”