Despite the efforts of an outside investigator, we still don’t know for certain that racial taunting occurred at a Tri-Cities middle-school girls basketball game last February.
But one thing is clear — adults involved in the fiasco behaved badly. Shame on them.
Participating in athletics can be one of the best outside activities for kids because it offers so many valuable lessons. How to be a good sport, how to work together and how to lose gracefully are just a few of the skills kids can pick up from playing on a school team.
But when adults lose their tempers, talk ugly and react in anger, it ruins the experience and sends kids all the wrong messages.
That evening game between Leona Libby Middle School in West Richland and Ellen Ochoa Middle School in Pasco was, unfortunately, one of those times when the adults blew it.
The allegations were so horrible that school officials from both school districts decided to work with a neutral third-party to investigate the incident.
Jessie Harris, a lawyer from a Seattle law firm, found that the spark started when athletes from the Ochoa seventh-grade team told their coaches a Libby player was using racial slurs against one of their players.
When it was time for the eighth-grade game to start, tensions were already high, Harris wrote.
As the game progressed and Libby players widened the score in their favor, the Ochoa coach began to complain about the officiating. That eventually earned him two technical fouls and an ejection from the gym.
When he walked off, he took his team with him instead of letting them finish playing the game.
Harris concluded that it was likely that the referee’s more hawkish officiating “impacted the Ochoa team more severely insofar as their skill level was not on par with the Libby team.”
If that wasn’t drama enough, as the Ochoa team was leaving an uncle of one of the Libby players started yelling at the coach. According to the investigation, the uncle told him to “take that trash back to east Pasco.”
Such talk is appalling, and it is unacceptable anywhere. But to think such language was used in front of young, impressionable kids is especially hard to stomach.
A relative of the uncle denies those words were said. While the investigation couldn’t prove that statements made at the game were racial insults, it is apparent that emotions got out of control and the girls on both teams saw grown-ups behaving at their worst.
In situations such as this, someone needs to be the adult. And sadly, it seems the adults were lacking.