The Virginia High School League investigated allegations this week that a Hylton boys’ soccer player was subject to racial abuse during last week’s Virginia 6A South region championship game at home against Grassfield High of Chesapeake.
Hylton administrators filed the report to appeal the ban of senior midfielder Austin Black from Thursday’s state semifinal, after Black was handed a red card and subsequent suspension for shoving a Grassfield player in the second half of last Friday’s match. Hylton officials claim that reaction was triggered by a racial slur, and the appeal included a game video, a statement from Hylton Coach Kristi Beckman and two racially charged photos and tweets. Those tweets have since been deleted.
Black was given a straight red card and suspended for two games for fighting.
On Wednesday, the VHSL issued Grassfield a warning for the incident while upholding Black’s suspension for both Thursday’s semifinal and Saturday’s title game should Hylton advance.
“The league felt that there was an unsportsmanlike act associated with it, and has issued a warning against the [Grassfield] boys’ soccer program,” VHSL Executive Director Ken Tilley said.
Hylton Principal David Cassady also said the Prince William County Police Department is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime and has interviewed several Hylton players.
Cassady has reviewed the play in question on video, which shows Black and a Grassfield player engaging in physical contact as they approached the sideline. At the end of the play, Black “looks like he takes a swipe at him,” Cassady said.
“He said it’s because the other player was throwing racial slurs at him. So that’s part of the investigation that we’re working on and trying so hard to work with Grassfield High School’s administration as well as the Virginia High School League. We’re trying to get an amiable resolution to this,” Cassady said Wednesday. “Because I’ve got a very upset community. I’ve got a very upset father.”
Black’s father, Reginald Black, said last week’s red card was the first of his son’s four-year career with the Bulldogs. Black is considered one of the top players in the region and will play at Randolph College in Lynchburg. But this week he is a “victim of racism and bullying,” his father said.
“All my intentions and efforts are to have my son reinstated back into the game,” Black said. “I don’t feel my son should be punished for something that he was provoked to do. This was premeditated.”
Hylton Athletic Director Sal Colangelo said he spoke with Grassfield Athletic Director Matt Puryear about an hour after Friday night’s game to report what happened. Hylton reported the incident to the VHSL and Grassfield’s administration Monday morning. Puryear did not immediately respond to request for comment Wednesday.
By Wednesday afternoon, Tilley said the VHSL deemed the matter to be concluded.
“We don’t issue warnings lightly,” Tilley said. “It’s just not a slap on the wrist.”
Cassady said this is not the first time an athlete from the school has reported being subjected to racism on the field, but that Hylton rarely has the evidence to substantiate the claims.
“I don’t think that’s the case here,” Cassady said. “And I think that’s obvious.”