A racial epithet allegedly used against several Black players during a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) semifinal game has not been thoroughly investigated by team or league officials, or resulted in disciplinary action.
Parents of two Black St. John’s College High School players allege that a first-team all-conference White midfielder from Paul VI Catholic High School may have used the N-word after a hard shove out of bounds that wasn’t penalized during the latter stages of an intense playoff game on May 4. St. John’s won the game 7-6 and later beat Gonzaga to win the WCAC championship.
Though the season and school year ended nearly a month ago, the incident remains under an unclear form of investigation by the conference, preventing the players involved from being publicly identified. One of the St. John’s players at whom the slurs were supposedly directed told the AFRO he was initially stunned by the insult. He said he addressed the game officials and his coach immediately, but that the officials didn’t assess a penalty or admonish the alleged offender.
Despite the efforts of various diversity initiatives, Black lacrosse players remain highly sought after but often not respected on the field. According to most national high school federation officiating protocols, players can be immediately ejected for using racial, sexual preference, or religious slurs. That decision rests in the hands of game officials; team- or conference-sanctioned suspensions can also be levied after internal investigations.
“St. John’s College considers any hateful or harassing speech, including potentially racist statements on the athletic field, to be fundamentally at odds with the mission of the school and the WCAC,” said St John’s President Jeff Mancabelli in an e-mail to the AFRO.
The incident will be a challenge for the WCAC to appropriately resolve. Because Paul VI saw their conference season end with the loss to St. John’s, there are limited punitive options available to the athletic conference. Paul VI went on to participate in the Virginia state lacrosse championships with the alleged offender on their roster, but there is nothing to address a quandary such as this in the league’s code of conduct. It could be a perfect time for a proper investigation to create a precedent.
There is also the possibility of a teachable moment for both players and officials. When a player uses racial slurs during a game without immediate intervention by officials, and is then allowed to play in the state tournament with no ramifications, they may feel a sense of empowerment to continue this type of behavior during their college career.
With the alleged offender’s high school athletic career at an end, Paul VI officials may feel little need to investigate and, if necessary, punish the youth’s actions. However, the parents of the students at whom the slur was directed said they are nonetheless asking for a formal apology.