Arizona State students have gained a fair amount of notoriety for their “Curtain of Distraction,” which they employ during basketball games to fluster opposing free throw shooters. Some high school students in New Jersey have adopted the practice, but in a recent game, what popped out from behind their curtain has prompted accusations of racial insensitivity.
In a Feb. 18 contest against Atlantic City, whose team is mostly composed of African American players, two students from Holy Spirit High School emerged, one in a monkey costume holding another in a banana costume. Here is video from the game, courtesy of NBC10 in Philadelphia:
According to the Press of Atlantic City, Holy Spirit students were warned not to do that again but otherwise will face no further punishment. The officials in the game were reprimanded by the Cape-Atlantic League’s supervising board of referees. From the Press:
“I am not going to kick anyone out of school or whip anybody. All I can do is apologize, I can’t take it back,” [Holy Spirit Athletic Director Jay] Connell said. “There is no punishment. The punishment is that it will be an event that will not happen again, and that is the punishment for Holy Spirit.” …
“Because it is Black History Month, it makes it even more offensive and insensitive. It’s unfortunate that it would happen in this day and age,” [Atlantic City High School athletic director Anthony] Nistico said. …
“There’s absolutely nothing that was intended to be racial whatsoever. It was a group of kids trying to have fun with something they saw on television,” [Holy Spirit Coach Jamie] Gillespie said. “There was no malice there whatsoever. If anybody wants to make it out to be that, it’s not. We have a respectable school community. We have four of our starters that are African American kids. I mean, come on. That’s not what that’s about. It was just kids not thinking through what their perception should be, but there was absolutely nothing racial and somebody is making something racial about it.”
The Press reported that an Atlantic City assistant coach said he was approached after the game by parents and fans of Holy Spirit, who apologized and told him they were offended by the incident. Holy Spirit lost the game to Atlantic City, 54-53.