Elder (Cincinnati) High School’s student cheering section chanted racial terms at an African-American player and a multiracial player for St. Xavier High School’s basketball team Friday night.
St. Xavier player Nate Stockman is multiracial, including Asian. Elder students chanted “P.F. Chang” at him. It wasn’t the first time the term had been used, said the player’s mother, Susan Stockman.
“Last year, it was a few whispers,” she said. This year it was most all of Elder’s student section.
“It was ‘Hey No. 2, open your eyes,'” she said. “‘Hey, No. 2 can you open them bigger?’ Then when he went to do his free throws they started yelling ‘USA USA.'”
African-American player Bobby Jefferson was also taunted with taunts highlighting stereotypes about blacks. The chants happened during the game Friday night between St. Xavier and Elder on Cincinnati’s West Side. They could be heard on a video of the game posted at EHSports.com, which features news on Elder High sporting events.
The video was taken down sometime Tuesday afternoon.
Elder Principal Kurt D. Ruffing apologized in a news release issued Tuesday, hours after Elder students sat through an assembly at which “the seriousness of Friday’s incident” was discussed. Tuesday was the first day of classes since Friday’s game.
Ruffing acknowledged Elder’s student section directed racial and ethnic chants toward members of St. Xavier’s team.
“Regrettably, … the game had to be interrupted at one point so that the students could be reprimanded by school officials for their actions,” Ruffing wrote in his apology. “The chants stopped at that time.”
On Monday, Ruffing emailed apologies to at least two parents of St. Xavier players who complained.
“I apologize on behalf of Elder, and I regret that the students behaved in such a manner as to insult your son, your family, and so many good people associated with St. Xavier as well as embarrass Elder,” Ruffing said.
Nate Stockman’s mother Susan Stockman said adults from Elder didn’t step in soon enough.
“It was very specific and targeted and no one said enough,” she said of the taunts. The chants happened for nearly the entire game until the third quarter, she said.
Ruffing, however, wrote in the news release that administrators “acted quickly” to stop the chants.
Stockman said she emailed Ruffing Saturday shortly before noon. The apology came Monday morning.
“Even the tone it seems like a day late and a dollar short,” she said.
Ruffing wasn’t at the game. He said he learned of the situation late Saturday afternoon due to poor cellphone service while out of town. In his letter to Stockman, he said he immediately called his athletic director upon learning the news. Then Ruffing called St. Xavier’s principal.
Elder’s athletic director also called St. Xavier’s athletic director. And Elder’s basketball coach called St. Xavier’s coach.
“Early this morning, I met with my athletic director and dean of students to discuss what transpired and how we handle this situation,” Ruffing said in his Monday email. “There was one student who was escorted out of the cheering section and he will be disciplined. Additionally, we will investigate this matter in an attempt to identify additional culprits.”
Ruffing described Tuesday’s assembly as an emergency session.
“My intent is to detail expectations of conduct expected of Elder students at all times,” he said in the email. “This WILL be a learning experience for the students and staff.”
Bobby Jefferson’s mother Mina Jones Jefferson said she was most angered by a “seemingly tacit” approval by adults at Elder who allowed the chanting to persist.
“I was flabbergasted and flummoxed,” Jefferson said.
“It was the entire student section,” she said. “It was the enormity of it. Occasionally, there may be an individual who might say something over the years – this was the entire section.”
The St. Xavier parent has gone to basketball games for four years. She has never seen anything like this.
Chants at previous games of “You’re going to work for me one day” evoke classism that has been somewhat overlooked, Jefferson said.
St. Xavier Principal Terrence Tyrrell said he spoke with Elder’s Ruffing on the phone Saturday and again Monday.
“We work well together,” Tyrrell said.
Communication between the two schools has been good, he said.
“I think the schools in the GCL and GCL South, we have good rivalries,” Tyrrell said. “We’re not always perfect, but we work together.”
Brian Bill handles public relations for Elder.
“The actions of our students are regrettable no matter when they began,” he wrote in an email. “Our focus now is on educating our students as to why their actions were offensive to others and learning from it.”