The Washington Post reported earlier today that a Friday evening high school football game between Dunbar (DC) and Fort Hills (MD) ended prematurely when the former’s coach pulled his squad from the field, alleging racial taunts. Said article received considerable national attention when it was picked up by Deadspin’s Marcel Mutoni, and later became the subject of debate on a Baltimore Sun message board. In Sunday’s Post, Alan Goldenbach reports that while the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association is investigating claims made by Dunbar coach Craig Jeffries (above), counterpart Todd Appel of Fort Hills insists his players are innocent.
Appel denied the charge that his team taunted Dunbar players with racial epithets. Reached by phone yesterday, Appel said he spoke to several players after the game and they were adamant they did not use any racist terms toward the Dunbar players.
Appel said he asked his tight end, senior Jordan Helmick, a three-year starter and one of six black players on Fort Hill’s 38-man roster, if he had heard any slurs, and Helmick replied, “Coach, I swear, nothing like that was going on.”
Appel said, “I wouldn’t tolerate [racist epithets], and if I heard it, I’d kick [that player] off the team.
Bob Broadwater, the game’s referee, said no one on the officiating crew heard any epithets.
“Based on the action on the field, there were no racial slurs that I or any of the other officials heard,” said Broadwater, who was reached by phone yesterday. He said Jefferies told him about the alleged slurs about a minute before the coach pulled his team from the field. “I told him, ‘If we hear it, we’ll penalize them.’ ”
Jefferies said yesterday that his players told him the alleged slurs were more prevalent than he initially believed. He said his players’ reactions, coupled with perceived biases in the officiating, made him believe the situation could have escalated into a fight or something worse. He said leaving the field was the best way to prevent that from happening.
“The worst-case scenario was a fight, which was inevitable at that point,” Jefferies said. “You could feel the sense of being uncomfortable in that stadium, and I had to do something proactive. If there was just poor officiating, my guys would have played through it.”