Christopher D. Kirkpatrick of the TOLEDO BLADE reports that Whitmer High School head basketball coach Bruce Smith, who is white, has recently been accused of making racially abusive statements to players on the Whitmer basketball squad.
According to the complaints and interviews, the coach has referred to some black players as “monkeys” and racially segregated the team on several occasions for practice drills, telling multiracial students they’d have to choose which side to play on.
Mr. Smith has called his accusers a “lynch mob“, but as part of a school investigation he did admit in a June 7 letter to a Washington Schools superintendent that he had referred to his players as “monkeys” and divided up the team by race during practice.
In the June 7 letter to his boss, Mr. Smith described a single incident when he called his players “monkeys,” simply because one of them was hanging on the rim, he said.
In the letter, Mr. Smith admits separating players by various categories, including by race, for “free-throw shooting challenges at the end of practice.”
He wrote: “In the past they have been split by race and it has never been a problem. In fact, we have found that it has been fun for the players - never has it been biased or unfair or demeaning in any way.”
After Smith’s admission, he, “received a verbal reprimand and was told not to separate the players by race, said Nancy Brenton, director of human resources for Washington Local Schools.”
So Smith was investigated by the school and received a reprimand. Case closed.
Then why is The Blade still covering the story?
A month before the school’s early June investigation of Smith, The Blade reports that five families made complaints to the NAACP. Early in the story, The Blade reports:
Williann Moore, president of the Toledo branch of the NAACP, said the parents had filed complaints, but she would not release the documents. She referred The Blade to the parents.
But later in the story from The Blade, we get this:
After the Northview basketball game in January, Kenny Hayes said the coach commented on a dunk and how several players followed up for a possible rebound but ended up hanging from the rim.
“I have never seen so many brothers hang on the rim,” he told his mother, Talaya Davis, according to her complaint to the NAACP.
The Blade subsequently reports that before those NAACP complaints, multiple parents complained about Smith to the school board through a letter sent by the same Mrs. Davis:
Mrs. Davis sent a letter dated April 13 to Steve Zuber, the school board president, and attached a separate sheet with more than 20 signatures from parents.
The signatures included 10 parents with children in the basketball program. It didn’t list any specific allegations but asked for a meeting with school officials “to discuss the future of the boys basketball program.”
When the school board wouldn’t grant the meeting with the parents, who asked to remain anonymous, those parents next filed complaints about Smith to the NAACP in early May.
The Blade then reports:
On June 2, (School Superintendent) Mr. Hickey received a call from a broadcast news reporter asking about the team and some of the allegations from parents, according to an e-mail Mr. Hickey sent to school board members last week.
So the “broadcast news reporter” being tipped off is what prompted the school investigation that resulted in the June 7 reprimand of Smith.
Two months later, The Blade published today’s story, with this as the lede:
Washington Local Schools officials and the local NAACP are investigating allegations from some players and parents that Whitmer High basketball Coach Bruce Smith has made racially insensitive remarks to players and has been verbally abusive.
Of course, The Blade also reported later in the same story that Washington Local School officials already investigated the matter, reprimanded Smith and closed the case.
Only the NAACP confirmed in the story that it is continuing to investigate the matter.
The Blade on Superintendent Hickey, who disciplined Coach Smith in early June:
Mr. Hickey, whose son Luke plays on the team, said some of the allegations of racial remarks relayed by The Blade last week were new to him: “You’re telling me stuff that’s brand-new to me. … We can’t investigate something we don’t know about.”
Would it be unreasonable to think that the parents who couldn’t get an anonymous audience with the school board in an attempt to oust Smith went to the NAACP for some measure of recourse?
Would it be unreasonable to think that the NAACP leaked - or encouraged parents to leak - the complaints about Smith to the “broadcast news reporter” who then contacted the school, prompting the now-completed investigation of the coach?
Finally, would it be unreasonable to think that the complaints about Smith came from, as sources “close to the program” told The Blade in today’s story, “some parents (who) are upset about the nonrenewal of the contract of a popular assistant coach. They (sources) also point to traditional tension in high-level high school programs between coaches and parents over playing time and their children’s futures in college sports.“
I’m in no way discounting the accusations leveled against Smith, and it does appear that he’s shown a severe lack of judgement with his comments and actions. And perhaps there should be further investigation into his coaching methods and remarks to players.
But for the sake of transparency, why didn’t The Blade report the truth: The school obviously doesn’t think what Smith did was all that serious and the NAACP is keeping the issue alive.
There’s nothing wrong with that, as that’s the reason the NAACP exists. So why won’t anyone report it?