Swain County High School has removed a football player from its junior-varsity team because of racially charged Facebook messages sent to a Cherokee player.
Shortly after Thursday’s game, which Swain County won 36-0, a 14-year-old lineman for the Maroon Devils sent Tye Mintz a pair of messages through the social-media site that included racial epithets for not only Native Americans, but African-Americans, as well.
The comments were extremely vulgar and also referenced Mintz’s older sister in an offensive way.
The final line of the two messages, sent privately to Mintz, concludes with “white power.”
Mintz, Cherokee’s quarterback, is an eighth-grade student.
“On our way home, it was hard because we had lost the game, but (the messages) upset my son and he was really offended by it,” said Chris Mintz, Tye’s father and Cherokee’s girls basketball coach.
“He showed it to me right then. None of my children are of Cherokee descent, but they’ve grown up in this community and feel part of it. Kids need to learn that what they put on Facebook isn’t always private.”
Each of Chris Mintz’s three children is Caucasian as is the Swain County player who sent the Facebook messages.
Chris Mintz shared the messages with the Citizen-Times, which is withholding the name of the Maroon Devils player since he is a minor.
Chris Mintz said he was told Swain County had dismissed the player in question from the team before an afternoon meeting between administrators from both Smoky Mountain Conference schools.
After attending Friday’s meeting, Chris Mintz said it was his understanding that the Swain County student has also been suspended from school, pending an investigation from the office of Swain County district attorney Mike Bonfoey.
Bonfoey declined comment.
Cherokee Principal Craig Barker also declined comment, and Swain County superintendent Sam Pattillo would not confirm what type of punishment was levied.
“We’re devastated, embarrassed and hurt by this,” Pattillo said.
“We’re in the process of investigating this situation, and I won’t confirm or deny (the punishment). It’s a school and a student issue, but it’s a lesson for everyone, including parents. You better know what is being posted by your kids. These postings can do so much damage and cause so much hurt. Adults and children need to know this.”
Michell Hicks, who is chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said he was apprised of the situation and pleased with the way the schools dealt with it.
“What was said does not fairly represent either of one of our communities,” Hicks said. “Two young individuals were involved. But there’s no place for racial slurs or anything of that nature. Good competition is what it’s all about.”
Most WNC junior-varsity teams are made up of high school freshmen and sophomores, but middle school players are eligible in the SMC.
Swain County’s varsity football team has won back-to-back 1-AA Western Regional championships and celebrated its last state title in 2011. Pattillo was the coach for that team.
The team’s roster included at least 10 players of Cherokee descent last fall when the Maroon Devils tied a school record for single-season victories (15).
The Cherokee and Swain County varsity football teams are scheduled to play Oct. 18 in Bryson City.