Ballard (Louisville) High School students behaved insensitively and inappropriately when they passed around a watermelon in the stands at a football game Friday against Central High School, Ballard Principal Jason Neuss said in a letter sent this weekend to parents.
Neuss said school authorities are investigating how and why the watermelon was brought into the game at Ballard’s stadium.
“While we do not know the purpose or the intent, we recognize it was inappropriate, insensitive and we are addressing not only who brought it, but how it was allowed in the stadium in the first place,” Neuss wrote.
Students were photographed passing around the watermelon by a Courier Journal photographer who was covering the game, and the photo was posted on courierjournal.com and on the Courier Journal Facebook page.
Some commenters thought the Ballard students brought in a watermelon to mock students at predominately black Central, using a taunt rooted in old stereotypes of African-Americans.
“This is despicable, yet common,” John Kennedy said on Facebook. “I’ll be watching for any punishments to come.”
Central’s student body was 77 percent black and 8 percent white last school year, according to JCPS data. Ballard’s student body last year was 33 percent black and 55 percent white.
“At Ballard, we are proud of our diversity and inclusivity,” Neuss said. “We will use this incident as an opportunity to learn and grow.”
Other commenters defended Ballard and said smashing a watermelon was a common practice at games.
“The pic going around about Ballard watermelon has nothing to do with race, it disappoints me at it has been turned into this,” Christine Sparks said on Facebook. “All of my children have attended Ballard taken part in sports and this is something they have always done. They will smash the watermelon just like they be smashing their opponents.”
Neuss wrote in the letter that he contacted Central High School Principal Raymond Green about the incident and added that he has a “tremendous amount of respect” for Central’s history in Louisville.