Disrespect Your Opponents, Town, Selves

A few weeks ago, a story hit about a black family being all-but run out of Buffalo’s Lovejoy neighborhood

This week, we have the Clarence Middle School girls’ lacrosse team suspended and punished for apparently hurling some ethnic/racial slurs at their opponents during a lacrosse game against Sweet Home. While there seems to be an allegation and multiple denials, we’ll never know precisely what was said or by whom.  

In fact, I’ve heard from kids who attend the Middle School that it was Sweet Home kids who were calling Clarence girls – some of whom on the lacrosse team are Black – names. Based on that, perhaps Sweet Home should also suspend its team. 

Both events are absolutely deplorable. This sort of behavior – this sort of thinking – is completely unacceptable and inexcusable in 2012 America. The Lovejoy harassers of the Coopers operate under the same hateful mindset as a girl who would yell “ni**er!” at any opponent in a game. I know we can never be free from racial animus, but it’s important to point it out and criticize it when it happens. 

Kids aren’t born racist; it’s something they learn from their parents and their peers. These incidents remind us that racial animus and ignorance transcend geography, wealth, and class. 

But in comparing the Lovejoy incident and this Clarence story, there are two stark differences – in the community response to hatred.  While neighbors and politicians in Lovejoy went out of their way to downplay the abuse of the Coopers, and try to pin as much blame on the victims as possible, the Clarence school administration immediately punished the lacrosse team. Although no one admitted to having hurled racial epithets at the team from Sweet Home, the Clarence school superintendent said, “[w]e determined there is evidence to believe that the allegations have merit.” 

A four-game suspension isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t jail or a school suspension. It’s a time out, during which these girls will learn that it’s completely inappropriate – even when engaged in two-sided trash talking – to call someone a “ni**er” under any circumstances. Or any racial epithet, for that matter.  These girls aren’t even in high school, and they’re learning a very important lesson about what is and is not acceptable in a civilized society. If we’re going to take this seriously, then let’s take it seriously. 


  • Kevin Pritchard

    I agree completely – let’s take it seriously.  Every time.  And when the Clarence parents end up suing the school district to get the suspensions rescinded I hope there are people who still say “let’s take it seriously.”  Because you’re about to hear a bunch of parents who normally would say all the right things about race and color suddenly say “but my child would NEVER say that”

  • If anyone sues a school board because their kid got suspended in 8th grade for a few games, they should be burnt in effigy too.

  • Burnt in effigy? You’re really a classy, tolerant guy,  Jesse.

  • The district’s response smacks of typical, politically correct bureaucratic overkill. Suspend the entire team–including the black player–without any serious attempt to sort out the truth.
    Clearly they took no lesson whatever from the Duke lacrosse fiasco. But then again, neither did Duke.

    These kids will not emerge from this experience with much of a lesson in fairness.

    • Life isn’t fair. There’s a lesson right there.

    •  The players, I guess to their credit, refused to name names. Under those circumstances, since the team held firm together, they got suspended together.

      However, the Clarence administration did find evidence that the accusations were true.  No disclosure as to what that was, nor did they owe the general public one.

      • NOT TRUE, there was NO evidence that the accusations were true.  Hicks suspended the girls BEFORE speaking to the coach or any of the girls.  I was at the meeting. He admitted it.

  • If I remember correctly, the Duke lacrosse “fiasco” began when a group of players decided to have a “party” in their home and hired two strippers – they placed themselves at risk through their own stupid and immoral conduct.   When you do the wrong thing, bad things can happen.  They were wrongly accused but were not beyond reproach. 

    In the instant case, the girls deny making racial slurs but they do not deny name calling – which is both inappropriate and unsportsmenlike conduct.  They may have been provoked but it is fine with me if the Clarence School District holds its athletes to a higher standard of conduct.   The Clarence girls team had the opportunity to exhibit grace under pressure and exemplary sportmanship – they did not do so.  They should sit the four games and study the history of lacrosse.  Perhaps if they understood what a privilege it is to play the game, they would respond differently next time.

    If the parents feel the Clarence District is too harsh with its students, perhaps they should consider moving to the Sweet Home District. 

    • If they use their time off to study the history of lacrosse, they wil learn that:

       “In the past, lacrosse also served to vent aggression, and territorial disputes between tribes were sometimes settled with a game, although not always amicably. A Creek versus Choctaw game around 1790 to determine rights over a beaver pond broke out into a violent battle when the Creeks were declared winners. Still, while the majority of the games ended peaceably, much of the ceremonialism surrounding their preparations and the rituals required of the players were identical to those practiced before departing on the warpath.” [from http://www.USLacrosse.org]

      One wonders how the Superintendent would deal with such behavior. Certainly he would not be so politically incorrect as to call it “savage”, or “uncivilized”.

  • hwhamlin-

    It is true that one aspect of lacrosse was a means for venting aggression but lacrosse also has a rich tradition of valuing all players. The game has meaning.


    If you have visited the US Lacrosse website, you know doubt have read the Honor the Game pledge players are asked to sign. US Lacrosse is working hard to grow the game in this country while holding true to its core values and spirit.

    Sending a message that disrespect, even in the face of disrespect will not be tolerated, is not PC thinking run amuck. It is holding the team to a high standard of behavior and expecting them to do what is right even when the right thing isn’t easy.

    If the girls the time to study the history and traditions of the game, they might actually learn how privileged they are. In fact, there are many examples of players currently and in the recent past who have given much to the game and for the right to play.

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