MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Although their season ended with a disappointing overtime loss on Saturday, the Mount Vernon High School varsity boys basketball team is still a hot topic of debate after players were targeted in racially charged Tweets following the Section 1 championship semifinal on Feb. 27.
So far, eight Mahopac students have been suspended after logging onto Twitter to exchange hate after Mahopac lost to the Knights 43-40 in the tournament.
Some of the tamest Tweets read, “That’s why you shouldn’t let monkeys out of their cages,” and “tough loss boys, but at least we can talk to our dads about it.” Another included a picture of pennies, intimating that it was a representation of a Mount Vernon family’s income.
More than two weeks after the incident, parents and residents remain incensed that the city, school district, and players were cyber bullied over the social media website.
“The whole thing is very disturbing and there’s no excuse for blatant racism like this, not in today’s world,” Willie Jenkins, who has two children in the district, said. “Sports should bring our kids together, it shouldn’t be something that divides us.”
According to Mount Vernon interim Superintendent Judith Johnson – who announced a call to action on Friday – racist remarks were also exchanged on the court, and allegedly a Confederate flag was waiving in the stands. The Mahopac students section, whose number neared 400 on game day, were decked out in all white and turned their backs when the Knights were introduced.
Officials at the Mahopac School District have asserted that both schools were at fault, and that Mount Vernon cheerleaders and fans were part of the pandemonium.
Sen. Gregory Ball (R-40) said that both school districts need to “take decisive, professional action,” though Johnson claims that Mount Vernon’s investigation into the incident has presented no evidence that her district is at fault.
“Mount Vernon is equally responsible for the toxic environment that was unfortunately created,” he said in a statement. “Mount Vernon must also be held responsible for sadly, they too, exhibited horrific behavior toward students, cheerleaders and athletes.
Mahopac parents have expressed concern that the sins of the few will cast a light over the entire district and town. Johnson has gone on record as stating that she supports a one-year ban for the basketball team.
“What happened cannot be tolerated, but I hope the entire district isn’t labeled as ‘racist’ because of the actions of a handful of teenagers,” Thomas Brennan said on Friday. “What happened is terrible, but I feel like it was a case of youthful exuberance, not blatant racism.”
Johnson and the entire Mount Vernon School District have been celebrated by elected officials for facing the incident head-on while the team continued its state tournament run.
“I applaud Mount Vernon for not sweeping this under the rug and bringing it to light,” Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-89), said. “There is nothing funny about this, and it’s not a joke. Jokes are meant to be funny.”