(Photo Courtesy Devin Gifford/Twitter)
Tension at an already drama-filled basketball showdown between rival Texas high schools on Feb. 13 was ratcheted up when students were spotted holding up a sign with an allegedly racist message.
The basketball game between Flower Mound High School and Plano East went into three overtimes. But it was the off-court drama that had social media and news sources buzzing, after a photo was tweeted showing fans in the Flower Mound section holding up a placard that read “WHITE POWER.”
The sign was up for about 30 seconds before mortified teachers rushed forward to take it down, but the damage was done and school officials are now investigating.
“This is ridiculous I thought we passed the racial stage of society,” wrote Plano East athlete Devin Gifford, who posted the now-infamous picture on his Twitter page.
According to Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA, witnesses said the incident happened late in the game when the excitement was at fever pitch. A Plano East student athlete who asked to remain anonymous said he recalls a specific moment when the noise in the gym became more strident.
“Our student section started pointing at the sign. That’s when it clicked into everyone’s mind… ‘Whoa… what are these guys doing?’ And the teachers came and took the signs down,” the athlete said.
He added, “We thought it was racist. It said ‘white power,’ and we were shocked.”
Witnesses also said racial slurs were lobbed at athletes on the court, particularly after a player was injured, WFAA reported.
And, according to Twitter interchanges, Flower Mound students defecated and urinated on Plano East’s team bus, though those allegations have not been verified.
“To me that’s criminal… it’s criminal, and it’s just sick,” said Deanna Thompson, a Plano East parent, adding: “This was not a mistake.”
Flower Mound coach Eric Littleton decried the incident on Twitter, calling the students’ actions “unacceptable.”
“As head coach at FMHS I offer our full voice apology. I will pursue this fully. No place for this,” he said.
Lewisville Independent School District’s Interim Superintendent Kevin Rogers echoed those sentiments, saying the unfortunate occurrence would be fully investigated.
“I want to be clear that this type of incident—however it has been perceived—has not and will not be tolerated in LISD,” he said. “As we stated yesterday, the investigation of this occurrence is still underway, and we fully intend to act on our findings.”
“We regret that this unfortunate event has been elevated to this level on so many social media circles,” he added. “I am disheartened that the perceived actions of a few may reflect poorly on two great schools—Flower Mound and Plano East High Schools—school districts and communities. Ultimately, please know we have the highest respect for the students, staff and community of Plano East High School.”