The postgame fracas between members of the Denby High School (Detroit) football team and Almont High (Lapeer County, Michigan) escalated as Denby players were spit on, cursed at and endured racial slurs, according to witnesses, the Free Press has learned.
Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Sunday the school district was withholding any possible disciplinary action pending a review of Saturday’s Division 5 state semifinal football game, which was called off early in the fourth quarter because of excessive personal fouls.
Almont won the game, 36-8, at Walled Lake Central High School.
As players were exiting the field, tensions escalated after a Denby player shoved an Almont band member. Almont fans then began hurling racial slurs at Denby players, some of whom reacted by throwing helmets or shoes or climbing a fence that separated fans from the playing field.
According to Denby coach Deon Godfrey, the racist remarks included the N-word and began as early as when Denby players took a knee during the national anthem before the game.
“Our cameraman is white and was filming near some Almont fans,” Godfrey said. “During the national anthem, he overheard them saying: ‘Look at these N-words taking a knee and they don’t even know why they’re doing it,’ and they kept going.”
Denby’s white coaches also were being called “wiggers,” Godfrey said, and “grown men and women started spitting on our kids as they walked up the ramp. They were throwing food, cups and whatever.”
“They called my student trainer a little monkey and they were saying: ‘Who let them off their leashes?’ ” Godfrey said. ” ‘They need to be on a leash. They never should have been here in the first place.’ ”
A punch was thrown, Godfrey said, after an Almont parent “bumped my player and (the player) bumped him back.” The parent punched the player in the face, before “my players started running to his aid.”
No arrests were made, according to the Oakland County’s Sheriff’s Department, but a spokesperson said Monday officers are still investigating the incident. A Denby player was briefly detained to ensure his safe removal from the situation. Almont players and coaches were not involved in the fracas.
“The school district is deeply disturbed by the actions witnessed this weekend during the Almont-Denby game,” Vitti said in an amended statement Monday. “Based upon preliminary findings, it is our understanding that Almont adult spectators were cursing and spitting on our coaches and players after the game while leaving the field. The disrespect toward the city, school, and players continued on social media after the game where Almont fans used numerous racist stereotypes. We look forward to getting to the bottom of what occurred based on factual evidence to determine the district’s next steps on how to best support our school and its administration, coaches, and students.”