POQUOSON, Va. (WAVY) — Friday night lights won’t be shining in Poquoson after a video was posted online, showing what appears to be some high school football players using racist language.
School officials decided to forfeit the game as a result.
10 On Your Side spoke to some people who said they felt the whole team shouldn’t be punished for the actions of a few, but others said the punishment wasn’t harsh enough.
There were also a lot of mixed opinions about the perception of Poquoson.
The clips show members of the high school’s football team using the N-word several times at an off-campus gathering.
“I couldn’t believe it, but I go to Poquoson, you gotta deal with it. Like being the only black, I have no say really,” Karon Smith said.
Smith is a junior player on the football team. He claims the video was in response to a student at another school who allegedly used a racial slur as well.
He said he’s heard racial slurs used before on campus but more commonly as slang and not in a derogatory way.
School administrators decided to forfeit the game saying “the language and behavior in these videos have no place in our schools or in our community.”
“I think they should’ve forfeited the season,” Michael Johnson said. “I think it’s going to cause problems for the team, the cheerleaders, the band, the fans and I think it’s just a terrible thing.”
However, not everyone agrees with the consequences.
“He should’ve been punished by himself. One bad apple shouldn’t spoil the whole bunch,” Karon said.
Poquoson Police Chief Clifford T. Bowen told 10 On Your Side Friday the department is aware of tensions and “ongoing social media chatter” regarding the videos.
Bowen said the department increased its “proactive measures” at all area schools on Friday and worked with school administrators to address safety concerns.
Many people 10 On Your Side spoke to Thursday wouldn’t go on camera out of fear of retaliation, but they told 10 On Your Side they felt Poquoson is commonly viewed as a racist community.
Karon, his father Chevis and many others feel the town is being unfairly mischaracterized.
“Everybody out here is not like that. I can vouch for that,” Chevis Smith said. “Yes, it was wrong what he said but, in this community, I have gotten nothing but love.”
Still, he praised the district’s response. He hopes this will be a learning experience for the community.
“Nowadays you just can’t say that. You just can’t do it,” Johnson said.
Poquoson School Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Parish made the decision to forfeit the game and sent 10 On Your Side the following statement:
“The language and behavior in these videos have no place in our schools or in our community. We find it abhorrent, and, while these videos were created outside of school, we are taking action within the scope of our Code of Conduct and under division policy.
One action that we are taking is to forfeit Friday’s game against York High. While we know some will be disappointed, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep our students safe. We also have a responsibility to help our students understand that behavior has consequences.
As a school division, we will continue to take a strong and unified stance against racist behavior and language. Our schools welcome and serve all students, and we stand firm in our effort to maintain safe educational spaces for all students.”Jennifer B. Parish, Ed.D., Superintendent