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Prep basketball crowds in New York, Indiana accused of targeting players with racial slurs

Ben Rohrbach
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Many Bedford (Ind.) North Lawrence High fans dress in safari outfits against the Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence North Wildcats. (Indianapolis Star)
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Many Bedford (Ind.) North Lawrence High fans dress in safari outfits against the Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence North Wildcats. (Indianapolis Star)

Prep basketball crowds in New York and Indiana have come under fire this week for alleged racial slurs.

In New York, at least three Mahopac (N.Y.) High students have been suspended and more suspensions could follow for racist tweets targeting opposing boys' basketball players after Mount Vernon (N.Y.) High's sectional semifinal 43-40 win over Mahopac, according to The Journal News.

Mount Vernon superintendent Judith Johnson has reportedly asked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Education Commissioner John King to suspend Mahopac's team from play next season. She allegedly accused Mohapac players of joining spectators in making "racial taunts of abhorrent nature."

According to The Journal News, multiple tweets characterized players as "monkeys" while another read, "One of the few biological Mount Vernon fathers just tried to sell me crack outside the county center."

As Mount Vernon coach and athletic director Bob Cimmino said, "It's a disgusting part of sports."

Mahopac superintendent Thomas Manko told The Journal News he discussed the matter with Johnson and requested she investigate Mount Vernon fan behavior, including the harassment of a Mahopac cheerleader and an alleged comment from the stands that "white boys can't play basketball." He also suggested a sitdown between coaches and players for both teams.

"I'm not interested in that at all," Cimmino told the paper. "These might be criminal acts. If someone does something to me, I'm not interested in sitting down and singing religious songs with them."

Meanwhile, in Indiana, two schools with easily confused names -- Bedford (Ind.) North Lawrence High and Indianapolis Lawrence North -- are embroiled in a racial debate after a girls' basketball playoff game.

Lawrence North principal Brett Crousore filed a complaint to the Indiana High School Athletic Association after his team's 62-54 overtime loss to defending state champion Bedford North Lawerence, alleging "racially targeted behavior" and "systematic racism," according to the Indianapolis Star.

According to the report, several BNL students wore safari gear and gorilla suits to the game in Bedford. Crousore reportedly confronted BNL athletic director Jeff Callahan when the students gathered beneath the Lawrence North basket during warm-ups, and Callahan asked the students to remove the gear.

In the letter obtained by the Indianapolis Star, Crousore wrote, "He seemed amazed I did not approve."

Callahan countered to the paper, "The safari was a theme because we were going after Wildcats (Lawerence North's mascot). Those (gorilla suits) had been worn at games throughout the year. I talked to the principal at Lawrence North and we discussed it. We made the decision to ask them to take them off. It wasnt like they brought them out just for that game."

Multiple Lawrence North students were referred to as "the N-word," Crousore alleged, and Wildcats players told WTHR-TV they were told to "Go back to Gary" and called "disrespectful" and "ratchet." According to U.S. census statistics in 2010, Gary, Ind., is 84.8 percent African-American, and a Chicago Sun-Times columnist recently lambasted urban youth for its use of the slang word "ratchet."

According to the Indianapolis Star, Lawrence North AD Grant Nesbit asked the IHSAA to include an ethnic minority in the game's officiating crew, but that reportedly was not the case when the two teams took the floor. Lawrence North also allegedly questioned the location of their semistate playoff game in Bedford, although the sites for postseason contests are reportedly determined prior to the school year.

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