BOSTON — Supporters of a Boston Catholic school whose students chanted “You killed Jesus” during a high school playoff basketball game against a nearby public school allege that the chant followed anti-gay slurs from their opponents’ crowd.
Parents of Catholic Memorial students said Sunday that they heard Newton North High School fans shouting homophobic slurs during the Friday night game, something they said is not uncommon for the all-boys school to endure during sporting events. The “You killed Jesus” chant alarmed Jewish fans in the crowd, drew an official apology from the Catholic school’s leadership and prompted an inquiry from the Anti-Defamation league. But it also drew complaints from Catholic Memorial supporters who said Newton fans were shouting what they considered to be equally offensive and crude slurs.
Risa King, a Catholic Memorial parent, said she heard anti-gay chants coming from the Newton side. “This is nothing new,” she said in an e-mail. “At every game our boys get taunted like this by most schools that we play. … We’ve just never complained before.” Other Catholic Memorial parents and supporters also reported hearing similar homophobic shouts.
Several Newton fans said they did not hear orchestrated anti-gay cheers coming from their side, though local news reporters said there were chants of “sausage fest” from Newton fans, which many took as an offensive way of referring to the all-boys school. The Boston Globe also reported that Newton fans chanted “Where are your girls?” Some Catholic Memorial fans said they considered the Newton chants to be offensive anti-gay slurs.
Brendan C. Hall, high school sports editor for ESPNBoston, and some other people tweeted about what happened:
Probably craziest high school chant ever
Newton North fans chant: “sausage fest, sausage fest”
CM fans response: “You killed Jesus”
— Dirty Dan (@Dtf617) March 12, 2016
I am serious. MIAA should consider fining schools whose fans use hate speech. I’m sick of dealing with these stories https://t.co/WDm0qGlnAO
— Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 12, 2016
Credit to the CM administration absolutely scolding its fans. Made every fan apologize to the Newton North principal just now. — Brendan C. Hall (@BHallESPN) March 12, 2016
The response from Catholic Memorial was swift, with school officials asking fans to apologize to Newton North and issuing a statement early Saturday condemning the schools’ chants.
Peter F. Folan, president of Catholic Memorial, released a statement Saturday:
Catholic Memorial School is deeply disturbed by the behavior of a group of student spectators who made an unacceptable chant Friday night while playing Newton North High School.
CM faculty and staff acted immediately to stop the behavior. Administrators from both schools and representatives from the MIAA discussed the incident. At the conclusion of the game, CM students were reprimanded and each student personally apologized to the Principal of Newton North High School and shook his hand before leaving the arena.
We have been the subject of hurtful chants as well and we will work diligently within our own community and with other schools to end this abhorrent behavior. Catholic Memorial School believes deeply that intolerance, of any kind, is unacceptable. We apologize for the actions of our students and we will continue to strenuously address this issue within our community.
Though there was reference to being the “subject of hurtful chants,” there was no reference to specific chants on Friday. Newton fans and school officials responded that they were upset by what happened, and they contacted the Anti-Defamation League, which is looking into the incident.
The Boston Globe’s Evan Allen reported:
“I found it chilling,” said Newton Superintendent David Fleishman, who arrived at the game, which was held at Newton South High School, about 20 minutes later. Fleishman said he was immediately approached by a visibly upset parent who told him she was shaken. “In my mind, this is incredibly upsetting and troubling, and they have a lot of work to do at Catholic Memorial,” Fleishman said.
One spectator who was shaken by the events — and who asked not to be identified — is a native of Skokie, Ill., where in the mid-1970s, a controversy erupted when neo-Nazis wanted to march through the heavily Jewish town. Skokie officials tried to stop it but lost the case in court. This spectator, whose parents are survivors of World War II concentration camps, said, “I can’t believe it,” she said. “I just can’t believe it.”
Some Jewish parents at the game said they were especially alarmed about hearing the “You killed Jesus” chant, a sentiment that was used by Christians over centuries as justification for the mass murder of Jews. They also are upset about why young Catholics would choose that chant 50 years after the Catholic Church said that Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus and that all forms of anti-Semitism are abhorrent. They said that the fans’ chant was inappropriate regardless of what they heard first from the opposing side.
Newton North, a public high school with more than 1,700 students, is in an affluent suburb just west of Boston with a sizable Jewish population; Catholic Memorial, the Christian Brothers School of Boston, is a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 through 12 about six miles away in West Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston that borders Newton. The school’s website says that it “transforms boys’ lives and prepares them for college and the world.”