QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. – It was supposed to be a fun time at a high school basketball game, but it turned into a tense evening after some people say school staff, and even law enforcement, were racially segregating six Native American families.
One witness said she’ll never forget the slurs she heard Tuesday night at American Leadership Academy in Gilbert (Ariz).
“The guy behind me says, ‘This isn’t Jungle Ball. Go back to the jungle where you came from,’” said Chasity Fall, explaining she heard someone in the crowd make the derogatory comment about a black student on the team.
Fall said that was only the beginning.
She was there rooting for the visiting team, Globe High School.
She says the athletic director got involved, asking people to change where they were seated.
“He goes, ‘We’re asking everybody to move over there — all you guys. You guys!’ … pointing to us,” Fall said. “Never once did he say ‘Globe Tiger fans,’ or never once did he say ‘Patriots fans.'”
Fall said she was part of six families — all Native American — who were asked to move to the other side of court.
She said if it were a simple matter of separating visitors and home team fans, she would have liked to know that at the door as she entered.
But ALA does not have a policy regarding where spectators have to sit; however, the school does have a policy for spectator behavior.
The ALA Constitution prohibits disruptive behavior such as profanity, heckling, racist remarks, and threatening or physical conflicts.
And a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson says that was exactly why deputies were dispatched to the school.
Sgt. Calbert Gillett said people were going onto the basketball court and disrupting the game.
“Deputies did not participate in any sort of activity that segregated anybody,” Gillett said in a statement.
ALA also saying in a statement, “The request was not racially motivated, but rather done out of a desire to ensure a safe environment,” adding the referees on the court made the request to move people because they were being unruly.
Fall said there was no reason for the request, but she eventually complied with law enforcement’s request to move.
She still plans to attend games since her children are involved in sports.
But she said she will never forget feeling belittled and degraded after hearing slurs targeting Natives.
“They were yelling from the audience. I don’t know who it was. ‘Go back to the res and use your food stamp card,’” said Fall.
Full statement from American Leadership Academy:
Last night at the American Leadership Academy (ALA) versus Globe basketball games there was an issue involving fan seating. There was a group of Globe fans who chose to sit on the home side amongst the ALA fans. Toward the very end of the girls varsity game, the referees approached ALA’s administration and asked them to remove some of the Globe fans sitting on the home side due to unruly behavior. Administration waited until the girls game was over, notified Globe’s varsity boys coach of the intended request, and then simply asked the Globe fans to move from the home side over to the visitors side of seating. The request was not racially motivated, but rather done out of a desire to ensure a safe environment following input from the referees. The Globe fans refused to move to the visitors side of the gym, so the Sheriff’s office was contacted. The Sheriffs office responded and de-escalated the situation, and the game concluded without incident. ALA is committed to ensuring a safe environment for all fans in attendance at our facilities. Last night, a reasonable request was made to separate opposing fans based on rising tensions. ALA would like to thank the Maricopa County Sheriffs office for responding and handling the situation.
Full statement from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office:
Deputies were called to the school for a disturbance during a basketball game that appeared to get a little over competitive, especially from a crowd stand point. Sheriff’s deputies did not participate in any sort of activity that segregated anybody. We were told by school officials that there were some fans from the visiting team sitting on the home team benches that were being disruptive and needed to move over to the visiting team benches. The fans complied with the request and the game continued without incident. Any questions regarding separating fans other than those that relate to crowd control, should be directed to the school.