Problems at a basketball game in a Queen Creek school gym have led to widespread social-media criticism of the school, with some Native American attendees calling school officials’ actions offensive and racist.
Many fans traveled about an hour and a half from Globe High School to American Leadership Academy’s Queen Creek campus for girls and boys basketball games on Tuesday.
When Globe fans’ competitive cheering turned into “unruly behavior,” administrators asked the group to move to the visitors’ side and, eventually, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was called to move them, according to school officials.
The Globe fans who were asked to move are Native Americans from six families, ranging from children to elders, who say they were not sitting together, were not acting out and instead were singled out and asked to move to “their side” because of their race.
The incident has incensed members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, which has a reservation near Globe High.
“I have never felt so belittled, dirty, degraded, treated like I did not matter,” said Chasity Fall, the mother of a Globe High School girls’ basketball player whose Facebook post on the matter has been shared nearly 15,000 times.
In response, the American Leadership Academy posted and deleted a statement, and administrators are working with Globe High School leaders to mend the conflict.
Academy: This was not racially motivated
The academy posted a public statement to its Facebook page Wednesday morning addressing the incident but, after apparently deleting multiple comments on the post, deleted the post completely.
Referees asked administrators to remove specific Globe fans for “unruly” behavior, said Tommy Roberts, the academy’s executive director.
“I don’t have the specifics on what precisely the unsportsmanlike conduct was, but I was told foul language was involved,” Roberts said.
When an administrator asked those fans to move to the visitors’ side, they refused and addressed him with more “foul language,” Roberts said.
“The fans told him they were hearing racist comments from ALA’s fans. Our athletic director asked who was making the racist comments so he could have them removed, but the Globe fans were unable to point out who it was. As tensions continued to rise, our athletic director made the decision to call the police before things got out of hand,” Roberts said.
“As it turns out, those fans were Native American, but they were singled out for their behavior, not for their race,” Roberts said.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputies “were called to the school for a disturbance during a basketball game that appeared to get a little overcompetitive, especially from a crowd standpoint,” MCSO spokesman Sgt. Calbert Gillett said in an email.
“Sheriff’s deputies did not participate in any sort of activity that segregated anybody,” he said in the statement.
“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.”
Globe fans: There’s more to the story
The academy “said there were unruly fans — there was nobody unruly. It makes them look good and there was nowhere near that,” said Fall, who arrived at the academy about 2:30 p.m. to watch all of the day’s games since her daughter plays on the JV and varsity teams.
Early on, Fall said, she heard people say, “This isn’t jungle ball. Go back to the jungle where you came from,” about a black athlete, and, “Go back to the reservation and use your stamps.”
The conflict began later when people arrived just before 7 p.m. to support Globe basketball star Robert “B.J.” Burries Jr., who last year set a single-game Division IV state scoring record with 68 points as a freshman.
Academy fans harassed Burries’ uncle, who arrived wearing a colorful shirt with photos of Burries on it, Fall said. The administrator asked them to move shortly after, about 7 p.m.
Fall said she was not sitting nearby and was unaware of what was happening until an administrator asked her to move. She said she has pieced together what happened by talking to various witnesses.
Three of the six families refused to move, in part, because it offended their elders, some of whom have physical disabilities, Fall said.
The incident has upset many in the San Carlos Apache Tribe, of which Fall is a member, and has received attention from the tribal council, she said.
“Our civil rights, the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality, were violated,” Fall said.
Academy executive director Roberts said he has contacted Globe Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Jennex “and suggested a meeting to discuss future Globe/ALA competitions and what steps we can collectively take to help prevent a future incident.”
The Globe district confirmed in a statement that administrators are working with the academy to investigate the incident, and “whether any further action will be taken will depend on the results of the investigation.”
“Globe Unified School District takes pride in the diversity of its student body and celebrates the unique aspects that each student contributes. GUSD does not condone discrimination or harassment of any kind,” district officials said in the statement.