Last night I received a disturbing e-mail,
An engineer from Northern Ireland, on loan to a company based in Edina, Minnesota recently attended a Edina-Hopkins high school girls basketball game. While in attendance, the visitor got to witness a continuing trend in sports at any level -- fans crossing the line.
"There were a dozen or so young males . . . who had exclusive jeers for the two African-American players on the Hopkins team," the engineer recalls. All throughout the game, the two young ladies had to hear "racislist slurs like primate and jungle noises when they were shooting free throws," the letter continued. The person said they kept informal stats and noticed that the two players combined for eight missed free throws out of 13 attempts. "You could see that this hatred, visited upon these girls, had a measurable effect on these two players."
At full count, "this group of sport hooligans" numbered about a dozen, "clad in green Edina kit, and sat in the first two rows opposite the teams, on the other end of the court from the (school band). I was on that same side. I inquired with another spectator more familiar with Edina and he said these boys were on the hockey team and come to all the girls basketball games. He said these hockey players are treated with kid gloves at his school, (and) the normal rules of behavior do not apply to them."
What should be asked here -- where are the adults in charge? The letterwriter, who I might suspect, have seen such boorish behavior at football (soccer) games in their home land, or might have seen worse, asked the same:
Booing the opposition is within reason at home games. Calling out someone's ethnicity, or making mockery of their person, is crossing the line.
I don't care if the person is Black or White. It doesn't matter. It's simple.
Like the Irish visitor, I, too, have seen such behavior at games. Once at a Minnesota Timberwolves game, I heard such hateness spew out of regular season ticket holders that would make a salty sea captain blush. And these were adults, supposedly persons who are mature enough to know better.
Even though they are kids, these young men shouldn't be given carte blanche to say anything they want, all under the guise of supporting the home team.
I don't know if the constant hassling really did affect the two Hopkins players, but it can have a lingering and long-lasting damanging effect.
As for Edina High School officials, which I am sure someone with authority was present at this game -- they must've heard this. If they did, why didn't they step in and ask the boys to not tone down their act, but cease it altogether.
If these officials did nothing, which according to the letter, certainly seems the case, their non-action co-signed the boys' taunts.
Making jungle sounds only when two Black players are on the court is racist. It's hooliganism American style.
It's crossing the line in Edina, Minnesota U.S.A., an afflunt Minneapolis suburb.
It would be crossing the line no matter if it took place in Hopkins, another suburb, or in the middle of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Or Chicago and Detroit; New York City and Los Angeles.
Or in the Northern Ireland engineer's own backyard.
"I know first-hand what sectarian hatred can accomplish when institutions turn a blind eye . . . or worse, tacitly support it," the person wrote.
Such behavior has no place in sport, period.
"A censure of the adults in charge of this event that night," the visiting engineer suggested -- this e-mail was also sent to Edina High officials and the Minnesota State High School League, the prep governing body which spells out sportsmanship rules for every school member, including Edina.
The letter also suggested that the Edina team managers personnally apology to the two Black players from Hopkins, and find out who were the boys yelling the racial remarks and penalized them.
"The most important thing for Edina to do is to reach out to the players from the other team and let them know that this is not what your school is about," the letter concluded. "The adults in charge of Edina should step up and let these African-American players know that the institution will not condone this behavior by sweeping it under the rug."
Not only let these players know this, but Edina High officials must clearly draw the line between sportsman (or sportswoman) ship and outlandish, sectarian hooliganism.
Not only in high school, but also in college and pros. It's not just creating a hostle environment for the on-court participants, but those attending as well.
What a great first impression the Irish visitor left with that night in Edina.