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Basketball players concerned by racism at high school tournament game

By Michael Anderson | Posted - Feb 29th, 2016 @ 8:14pm


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BLUFFDALE, Utah — While team members should be celebrating a 2A state championship win, players with the Summit Academy basketball team say their minds have been stuck on racist comments yelled at them during and after a tournament game.

"The student section started cheering, 'USA, USA,' like we're not from America or something," center Sam Velez said. "I guess that really just turned the game."

Velez is talking about their game against Emery High School on Friday. Ervic Gray, head coach at Summit, said he heard some disparaging remarks too.

"A couple of comments like, 'We lost to a team that doesn't speak English.'" Gray said. "We speak English. Everybody speaks English. I'm confused."

When asked about the comments, Todd Jeffs, head coach at Emery High School, said he was not aware of any racially motivated behavior.

"There were no racial comments made, and I didn't hear anything," Jeffs said. "The people involved with the game didn't hear anything."

Jeffs said he could hear the "USA" chanting in the crowd, but did not believe it was meant to be racially offensive. Players at Summit Academy however say their troubles continued after the game as players were walking to their bus.

"There was some dude in a confederate flag do-rag, flaunting it," Velez said. "I mean, in the south that means something totally different, but I could just tell by the way he was flaunting it and the racial slurs during the game, that it was meant towards us."

Point guard Darrin Gethers said he and a couple other players were also confronted by a group in a car later that night while they were walking out of a convenience store.

"They slowed down and followed us a bit," Gethers said. "Just pointed out the window with their middle finger and said the 'N' word."

Jeffs says he can't be sure the incident at the convenience store was tied to the earlier game. He did say, however, that there are likely bad feelings over Summit Academy's position as a charter school.

"Our fans and student body is more upset with the fact that their school is a recruiting situation school, and ours is not," Jeffs said.

Coach Gray plans to address the situation with the Utah High School Activities Association. He says it's important make efforts to ensure that it won't happen again.

"When the kids are concerned about their safety, and the parents come to me about the safety of their kids; that's an issue," Gray said.

Gray also pointed out that his team's championship against Layton Christian Academy the next day was a much more positive experience, saying that parents and team members showed good sportsmanship. He says his players have been too concerned about comments made during and after the Emery game to celebrate their state title win.

Most of the kids are like, 'I'm so mentally drained from dealing with this stuff,'" Gray said. "Maybe we'll celebrate tomorrow. We have a pep rally, and we'll celebrate tomorrow."

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