Tensions rose at a high school basketball game Wednesday evening as New Miami students and parents flung racial slurs at Oyler High School athletes, Oyler students and coaches say.
The game was called early after a New Miami student was injured in a hard foul by an Oyler player.
New Miami officials say they're investigating what happened, as are officials from Cincinnati Public Schools.
Mason Ford, uncle to Oyler player Izaiah Cathey, wrote about the game on Facebook late Thursday evening. The post had over 200 shares and more than 100 other interactions as of 4:30 p.m. Friday.
"Throughout the game(...) the athletes, the students and the parents in attendance from New Miami consistently yelled slurs at the literal children playing for Oyler. Calling them 'N------', 'Slaves,' 'Inner city trash,' and I'm sure much more," Ford wrote.
Ford said eventually one of the Oyler players got "fed up" and committed a hard foul.
"The game was stopped by the principal of Oyler, who was, luckily, in attendance, and more threats and slurs were thrown at her and at all the Oyler team and staff," Ford wrote. "Thankfully, everyone made it home safe."
A CPS spokesperson told The Enquirer the hard foul occurred during the third quarter and was "followed by an unsportsmanlike act on the part of an Oyler player."
In a video posted on Butler County High School Sports Report YouTube page, an Oyler player kicks a New Miami player in the head while the New Miami player is laying down on the court. A fight breaks out before the livestream cuts out.
"Cincinnati Public Schools and Oyler High School do not condone such conduct," the spokesperson said.
CPS said the Oyler student's actions were addressed in accordance with CPS student athletics policies, and the comments that sparked the hard foul are being investigated.
"We're tired of it," 16-year-old Izaiah Cathey told The Enquirer Friday afternoon. "We're tired of the disrespect that was brung to us. You know, we've been getting the same treatment from everyone for the past couple of years, since my freshman year. And we just got tired of it."
Izaiah is a junior at Oyler and was playing in Wednesday night's game. He said the offensive language and gestures began "the second we walked into the gym." The general feeling throughout the game was hostile, he said. A photographer on the court looked at the Oyler players and made a gesture like he was cutting his throat.
"This is definitely not a new thing from New Miami," Izaiah said. "This time the parents got involved."
New Miami Local Schools superintendent Rhonda Parker told The Enquirer there is an investigation underway.
"Right now we're doing some investigation as far as those allegations go," Parker said. "And I understand that there have been some unfortunate social media posts. But, of course, we take all those accusations seriously."
CPS also referred to social media posts in its release: "It has been reported on social media and elsewhere that, during the game, racial comments were directed toward Oyler players. CPS takes these reports seriously and is investigating."
Racial hostility has been an occasional but recurring problem at school athletic events and programs around the Cincinnati region, a search of The Enquirer's archives shows.
The soccer team at Western Hills High School, which had many players who were immigrants, had problems at a September 2019 game. In 2018, students from the Kings Local School District wore jerseys with racist words denigrating blacks during games in the recreational Cincinnati Premier Youth League. Use of the N-word has reportedly been common in the past at football practices at Lebanon schools, according to records regarding a federal investigation into claims of racial discrimination at the district.
'You don't want these kids to feel scared.'
Terry Robinson says he's an assistant coach at Oyler High School and was at Wednesday's game. He said his players were called the N-word, "poor" and other derogatory names.
"There has to be a change," Robinson said.
Robinson said the team is "somewhat used to" these remarks, and the coaches prepare the kids for such circumstances. But he said Wednesday's situation reached a new level.
"This just can't be allowed," Robinson said. "At the end of the day, they're still kids. Kids make mistakes. But when you have adults, you know, coming into the situation, somewhat making the situation even worse than what it should be, that's when it gets out of hand. And you don't want these kids to feel scared to even go back to New Miami knowing some of the things that they were saying."
A Friday afternoon release from New Miami Local Schools says the incident is also being investigated by local law enforcement, though Butler County dispatch has no record of the incident. The Enquirer reached out to the New Miami Police Department multiple times but was unable to make contact Friday afternoon.
The Enquirer reached out to the Ohio High School Athletic Association on Friday regarding the incident and has yet to receive a response.
The schools' full statements are provided below.
From New Miami superintendent Rhonda Parker:
Wednesday evening there was an event that occurred during the Home Basketball Game between New Miami High School and Oyler High School that resulted in an injury to a New Miami player. As a result, the basketball game was ended by a school official. The events that took place during the game are under investigation. Both high schools are following their school district policies, and the issue is also being investigated by local law enforcement.
New Miami will not comment further, as this is an open investigation and involves minor aged students. Thank you.
From Cincinnati Public Schools spokesperson Frances Russ:
This statement responds to media inquiries regarding the basketball game between Oyler High School and New Miami on January 13, 2021.
During the third quarter, a hard foul occurred, followed by an unsportsmanlike act on the part of an Oyler player. Cincinnati Public Schools and Oyler High School do not condone such conduct, and administrators and coaches met with the Oyler student following the game. His actions were addressed in accordance with CPS student athletics policies.
Subsequently, it has been reported on social media and elsewhere that, during the game, racial comments were directed toward Oyler players. CPS takes these reports seriously and is investigating.
On December 4, 2020, the Board of Education implemented an anti-racism policy which has as its central purpose the elimination of racism in all of its forms in programs and activities of Cincinnati Public Schools. Critical to the implementation of that policy is ensuring that the young black men and women of Cincinnati Public Schools know they are supported and heard.