Isaac Phillips, center, leads an anti-racism candlelight vigil in Lunenburg — ABC News screenshot
The Lunenburg (Mass.) High football season is over. The team wasn’t eliminated in the playoffs, nor was it brought to an end by a lack of players following a rash of injuries. Rather, the program has called it quits for the season because one of its players had his home spray painted with racist language.
As reported by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and Boston Herald, among other sources, Lunenburg canceled the remainder of the team’s 2013 schedule following investigations into racist language that was spray painted on the house of 13-year-old Lunenburg eighth grader Isaac Phillips. The junior varsity football player’s house had the phrase "Knights don’t need n------!" spray painted on its foundation. Phillips’ father is African American and his mother is white.
After discovering the graffiti, Phillips told officials that his teammates may have been responsible. While there have been no official comments confirming those suspicions, the cancellation of Lunenburg’s final two games — including the program’s traditional Thanksgiving Day game against rival St. Bernard’s High (Fitchburg) — speaks to concerns about the actions of the team’s players.
On Tuesday, Lunenburg school superintendent Loxi Jo Calmes confirmed that an investigation into the hate crime was ongoing, and had been expanded to look into alleged racial slurs used by Lunenburg players against opponents from South High Community School (Worcester) earlier in November.
The expanded investigation has also drawn attention from the FBI, which is now assisting the investigation by local officials and could bring federal hate crime charges against any who are found to be responsible for the graffiti.
Meanwhile, Phillips’ father, Anthony Phillips, complained that the school district had not reacted quickly enough to initial allegations of racist language, leading to the intimidation-style graffiti on his property. He said the family was investigating transferring Isaac Phillips into a different school district.
For his part, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was quick to condemn anyone who was connected to either the spray painting or racist in-game comments.
"First of all it's disgusting. I don't believe it is who the people of Lunenburg are. I don't think it is who the people of the Commonwealth are," Mr. Patrick said at a Statehouse press conference Monday afternoon.
"I have spoken with the superintendent. I have reached out to the family. I haven't connected with the family, but I hope all of the people of the immediate community and around the Commonwealth will rally around this family and send them their support and remind them what I know to be true, that we are better than this," Mr. Patrick said.
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