Three Mesa Red Mountain High School students have been disciplined after making monkey sounds and gestures toward a black student from the visiting team during a varsity basketball game Friday night. And the target of their taunts is focused on another goal, according to his sister.
The non-athletes will not be allowed to attend a school sporting event the rest of the year, according to Steve Hogen, the district athletic director for Mesa Public Schools.
The athletes will have to sit out a specified amount of games. Federal law forbids schools from releasing names or further details about the students.
The player from the visiting team, Saikou Gueye of Glendale Mountain Ridge High School, ignored the incident during the game and now is focused on the championship round of the state basketball tournament, his sister said.
The Arizona Republic reached out to Saikou Gueye, 17, who deferred to his older sister, Raby.
“He’s really focused on trying to finish the school year and find a good college, that’s all,” she said, standing outside basketball practice Tuesday afternoon.
“Whether you believe it or not, he’s actually really shy, so he doesn’t like all this limelight that he’s getting … he’s not one of those kids that likes attention, which is weird because he’s a basketball player, but he likes to stay to himself.”
She was not at the game but said she was “furious” when she found out what happened, especially during a playoff game, but “really proud” of Saikou’s reaction.
‘It was a shock to us’
The Gueyes are from Senegal and sought asylum in the U.S. in December 2001, Raby said, and now are citizens. But she said she doesn’t believe the taunts had anything to do with Saikou being an immigrant.
“They were losing and that’s how they expressed their frustration,” she said.
“I don’t think the players knew that he was from Africa. I think that it was just another black player and they were frustrated, and that’s the way they expressed their anger, by making fun of his race and trying to really get his attention, and obviously it did not work.”
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Saikou told The Republic after Friday’s game that he could hear what was going on but “had no choice but to ignore it.”
The incident shocked the whole family, said Raby, 23.
“I don’t think we’ve ever experienced something to this magnitude. It’s never been this big of an issue for us,” Raby said. “It was a shock to us, but at the same time it’s just kind of like, this is kind of how it is nowadays. I mean, you see racial videos being posted here and there.
“A lot of people have become very bold with this whole, being able to express their feelings, which is OK, but just make sure it’s not hurting others while you’re doing it.”
Saikou and the family have moved on, Raby said. Mountain Ridge basketball has a playoff game at top-ranked Corona del Sol High School in Tempe on Wednesday.
“It’s unfortunate that this happens so much that you just become immune to it, ’cause that’s what it seems like his reaction was, like, it’s another thing that you just kind of have to brush off,” she said.
“I don’t think he has any hate for them,” Raby said. “But it is unfortunate that this has to happen to a kid who’s just trying to play basketball.”