Not even a month ago, North Fort Myers High principal Matt Mederios spoke out in support of Tavaris Gary following the second public racially-charged message directed at Lee County’s only black baseball coach and his team.
The school’s answer to a racial epithet and a swastika spray painted on the home dugout at Joey Cross Field was wearing red during a home game March 1 to display their appreciation for Gary.
In a turn of events, Gary as well as assistant coaches Mike Washington and Christian Martinez were released from their positions Thursday , a Lee County School District official confirmed.
Gary, who wasn’t immediately available for comment, is a 2000 North graduate and former St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguer. He was in his second season with the Red Knights leading the club to a 9-13 overall record.
The district didn’t comment on the reason for Gary’s dismissal.
“Principals have complete discretion over coaching positions and can release at will, with or without cause, a coaching position,” spokesman Jason Sill said.
Former North coach Gary Kamphouse will serve as the head coach for the rest of the season.
Over the last nine months, Gary’s tenure was marred by two publicized racially-charged images directed at him and his club.
In May of last year, a Snapchat video circulated around social media of former North baseball coach David Bechtol, who is white, sledgehammering a to-be-demolished wall in his home with a caricature of Gary, featuring stereotypically enlarged lips, with a noose drawn around his neck.
Bechtol, who served as a Red Knights coach for four seasons, said at the time he was distraught over losing his coaching job, but his actions weren’t racially prejudiced.
And, most recently, a baseball player discovered graffiti on the North home dugout last month. A report was filed with the Lee County Sheriff’s office, with an investigation still pending.
“Coach Gary is an honorable man and he’s committed to his job,” Mederios, who couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, said following the incident. “He doesn’t understand why these things are occurring. Why are these things being directed at him?”