An assistant football coach at a California high school has been accused of pretending to tie a noose around his neck while making an offensive comment to a black student in April, leading the coach to be placed on leave.
As reported by the San Jose Mercury News and other local sources, an unnamed Santa Teresa High School (Calif.) teacher and assistant football coach used the noose gesture while he was with a group of players, only one of whom was African American. While the coach has not been identified, the incident coincides with the departure of longtime Santa Teresa head football coach Nick Alfano, who announced in late May that he would leave the program. There is no indication that the two events are related in any way.
The incident, which is described more fully by the Mercury News below, has already been investigated by San Jose police and is currently looked at by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, per the newspaper.
According to police, the teacher, who is white and whose name has not been publicly released, was with student football players on campus April 30 when he took an exercise rope, put it around his own neck, turned to the lone black student in the group, and said something to the effect of “stay away from me.”
While the coach told officials that the entire incident was a poorly executed joke, San Jose police officials were far less cavalier about the potential hate incident, which was deemed to fall short of the threshold needed to file charges as a hate crime against the coach, per Bay Area ABC affiliate KGO-TV.
“Let this be a message to our community that we take these cases extremely seriously,” San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia told the Mercury News. “We don’t see them as jokes, and we’re going to investigate them to the fullest extent of the law.”
Both East Side Union High School District officials and area African American civic leaders expressed exasperation at the incident and the coach’s belief that it was only an ill-taken joke.
“It’s 2018. I’m so disappointed,” Rev. Reginald Swilley, the co-chair of the Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet of Silicon Valley, told the Mercury News. “They’re not even doing this in Mississippi.”