Enosburg Falls High School boys soccer players and fans hurled racist language at Winooski High School players as the two teams played against each other earlier this month, according to the Winooski School District superintendent.
Superintendent Sean McMannon said in a statement that Winooski High color players were named “the N-Word, Monkey and Terrorist” during the September 18 game in Winooski. He said this is not the first time football players and fans of Enosburg Falls High have racially insulted his district’s team. The statement was posted on Twitter by the school district on Friday.
“This ongoing racial violence against Winooski student athletes is making me sick, boiling my blood and needing to stop,” said McMannon.
The Vermont Principals’ Association, the governing body of school sports in Vermont, is aware of the incident, according to Executive Director Jay Nichols.
The game was first brought to the attention of the game the day after it was played when the chief referee informed him that a Winooski player had been removed from the game for “violent behavior” after being shown a red card and that the team’s players said excessive fouling Nichols.
Nichols said the association will be notified every time a player is excluded, regardless of the severity of the incident.
Enosburg officials then sent the association video of a winooski player headbutted an Enosburg player, Nichols said. The referee did not witness the headbutt, said Nichols, who inflicted a concussion on the Enosburg player.
The association informed the Winooski officials that the player who headbutted the Enosburg player would have to go before a committee to decide whether and for how long he should be suspended.
That hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
But when examining the situation with Winooski officials, the association learned that Winooski’s players reported having been racially insulted during the game, Nichols said.
“It’s just as bad as the headbutt situation,” he said. “That is violence in itself.”
The Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union, which also includes Enosburg Falls High, is now investigating two allegations, Superintendent Lynn Cota wrote in an email.
One is that Enosburg students “used racial slurs against Winooski students of color,” she said. The other is that Winooski students were “violent” towards Enosburg students during the game.
“If both are found to be true, we will take all possible disciplinary action to hold the parties accountable,” said Cota. “Racist statements and physical violence have no place in the sports sector or anywhere else in our schools.”
In his statement, McMannon said that Winooski’s players also described being kicked and elbowed from the ball from the referee’s point of view during the game.
He said the racist insults from Enosburg players and spectators, as well as the physical behavior of both teams, had been reported to the referee but ignored, “resulting in further aggressive and unsportsmanlike play by both teams.”
The Superintendent von Winooski called on the school leaders’ association to develop binding procedures for reporting racist abuse and violence and to work with school districts “to ensure a thorough and fair investigation of all reports of racist abuse”.
In a statement on Monday, Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott also said the city will “continue to call for accountability and change and the fight for equality and racial justice” in response to the incident, which she described as “disheartening”.
Nichols said the association already plans to require implicit prejudice training for high school coaches starting next winter season and high school officials starting next fall season.
“We are definitely trying to do what we can to help,” he said.
Last summer, then-Winooski High student Hussein Amuri told the district’s school board that he had been labeled a racist slur during football matches throughout high school. The district must do more to combat the abuse, he said at the time.
Winooski has the state’s only BIPOC majority school district, VTDigger reported.
The Winooski Mutual Aid volunteer group is organizing an event to “fill the stands” for the high school football team’s home game at 6:30 pm on Tuesday
“Come on, stand by them,” the group wrote in an Instagram post, “and show that Winooski does not tolerate racism.”
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