Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati has condemned as “demeaning and hurtful” the racist and homophobic chanting which happened during a basketball game between two Catholic high schools in the archdiocese.
The Feb. 2 game between Elder High School and Saint Xavier High School was halted after abuse was hurled at St. Xavier’s black and Asian players from the Elder student section.
“I was sickened, just sickened,” Susan Stockman told WLWT, a local television station.
Stockman’s son plays for Saint Xavier, and she said the abuse was “relentless.”
“It went as far as ‘Asian, open your eyes. Go play chess. P.F. Chang’s,'” Stockman said.
Mina Jefferson told the station the chants were “microaggressions and racial slurs,” and her son was accused of being on crack cocaine and welfare.
She said she was shocked the abuse went on as long as it did, and parents were forced to confront the referee about the abuse in the third quarter of the game.
“It’s surreal. I mean, you hear it and you assume someone’s going to act swiftly, seize the moment and let that be the lesson, and that didn’t occur. So then you’re dealing with just an absence, a failure of leadership,” Jefferson told WLWT.
Both Saint Xavier and Elder are elite all-boy’s Catholic prep schools, and the student population at both is over 90 percent white. Cincinnati’s population is 49 percent white, and 45 percent black.
Saint Xavier High School principal Terrence Tyrrell issued a statement saying he was “proud” of how his students handled the situation.
“Our students showed restraint in both their actions and what they said. We are only able to control our own actions. We are not able to control the actions of Elder students,” Tyrrell said.
“The promotion of truth undermines the ideology of injustice. Love for each other and love for all others fills us with the courage to enter the struggle. Good prevails only if we are willing to endure that struggle,” the Saint Xavier principal said.
Schnurr said he was “deeply dismayed” by what happened at the basketball game and apologized “on behalf of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to the Saint Xavier student athletes who were the targets of these taunts, as well as to their parents and family members.”
The archbishop said he has been in contact with the office of the Elder principal “to ensure that this matter is being addressed with the urgency and seriousness that it warrants.”
“Behavior such as this is directly contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and falls well short of the expectations that I have of any of our Catholic high schools,” Schnurr said. “Our Catholic faith demands that we respect and love all of God’s children, and our words and actions should reflect this at all times.”
Elder High School principal Kurt Ruffing issued a statement apologizing to the Saint Xavier team, and promising action would be taken against the offending students.
“In addition to imposing internal disciplinary action for what transpired, Elder’s administration will take this opportunity to educate its students on the importance of accepting responsibility for one’s actions, understanding the gravity of how our chosen words and actions can be hurtful to others and reflect poorly upon ourselves, our families, our schools, our communities, and beyond, and working harder to recognize the differences in ourselves and in others and why those differences should be celebrated and not disparaged,” the principal said.
Ruffing also took a group of Elder students to visit the Saint Xavier campus and have lunch and speak about what happened. He also said the way the cheering section is monitored will be changed.
“This type of behavior is not condoned at Elder, nor is it indicative of the lessons taught and learned in our classrooms, hallways, and on our fields of play, and it will not be tolerated,” Ruffing said. “We promise to do better in order to reestablish your trust in us as we continue committing ourselves to preparing our students for life after high school.”