Polk player's step-father, coach say team endured racist comments, gestures at 2 games
POLK COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) —
Polk County superintendent Aaron Greene said he’s investigating two of Polk County High School varsity basketball team's away games where racist incidents reportedly took place. Greene said the varsity won’t be playing in games this week until there’s more clarity on what happened at a game at North Buncombe last Wednesday and a game with Landrum on Friday.
Rashawn Cunningham said his step-son plays on the varsity team and witnessed the racial epithets yelled by North Buncombe supporters from the stands.
“From the time they stepped into the gym, they were being taunted,” said Cunningham, who spoke at length with his son and parents of other players. “Some of the fans in the stands were calling them the N-word, some of the fans were making the gestures with (as if they had) nooses.”
To be clear, Cunningham said no one had nooses in the stands. But he said his step-son saw North Buncombe supporters making a gesture with their fist in the air pumping above their heads as if they were pulling nooses, directing the gesture toward Polk players.
While there is a video circulating on Facebook of an alleged altercation involving a Polk senior, arrested at the Landrum game last Friday, the video is grainy, making it hard to definitively see who was involved in the argument on the hardwood. The receptionist who answered the phone at the Landrum Police Department on Monday appeared to be aware of the student's arrest but said the office would not be commenting. Arrests are public record. A request for a call from the police chief was not returned Monday.
Polk County High coach Antoni Staley wrote on his Facebook page that his players did confront the racism at the North Buncombe game, stating he expected multiple arrests and disciplinary action. However, the coach removed the post during the day Monday and would not comment further.
Cunningham said he realizes Staley is in a difficult position, working for the school. He said he understands why there may be pressure on Staley not to speak candidly about what he witnessed at the game, but Cunningham said he wants school administrators to release details and facts related to both games, including credible witnesses.
We want to know what's going on, Cunningham said.
“We don't just want to be told, 'We're handling it, or we're investigating it,’ because, we don't believe you.”
Greene said there will be a thorough investigation of both games but would not confirm any details or estimate when the schools would release facts of what happened at the games.
Polk County forfeited the game against North Buncombe at half-time, and both teams went home.