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Anti-Defamation League seeks investigation into Duxbury High football team for use of Holocaust-related terms on field

Duxbury is scheduled to play its next game, against Hingham, on Friday, the day before the Jewish holiday of Passover begins.
Duxbury is scheduled to play its next game, against Hingham, on Friday, the day before the Jewish holiday of Passover begins.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/GLOBE STAFF

Update, 11:15 a.m. Wednesday: Duxbury football game vs. Hingham canceled after use of anti-Semitic terms by Duxbury players

The Anti-Defamation League of New England called Tuesday for “a full-scale independent investigation” into the Duxbury High School football team’s alleged use of Holocaust-related language and Jewish terms to call plays on the field.

ADL executive director Robert Trestan said in an interview with the Globe that Duxbury school superintendent John Antonucci told him Duxbury football players called audibles — last-second calls at the line of scrimmage — in a recent game by using terms such as “Auschwitz,” “rabbi,” and “dreidel.”

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“It’s deeply hurtful to the Jewish community to learn that the plays somehow connect to the Holocaust and Judaism,” Trestan said. “This is a really serious situation. There are indications of a systemic failure both on and off the field.”

Antonucci, in a statement to the Globe, said, “It has become clear that members of the Duxbury High School football team did in fact use anti-Semitic and potentially other inappropriate and derogatory language.”

Antonucci said the investigation will continue.

The alleged anti-Semitic language was used to call audibles against Plymouth North on March 12, Duxbury’s season opener. Plymouth school officials notified Duxbury authorities afterward about the offensive terms.

Duxbury’s head football coach, Dave Maimaron, was not on the sideline for Duxbury’s March 19 game against Silver Lake and is not expected to return while the investigation is underway. He issued a statement Monday, saying, “I want to extend my apology for the insensitive, crass, and inappropriate language used in the game on March 12th.

“The use of this language was careless, unnecessary, and most importantly hurtful on its face — inexcusable.”

The Duxbury Interfaith Council described the episode as the first test of the town’s commitment to an antidiscrimination proclamation the selectmen enacted in February.

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The Rev. Catherine Cullen, president of the Interfaith Council and pastor of the town’s First Parish Church, said, “Thus far, the temperature of the community is that people are absolutely outraged and appalled at the fact that this has gone on in our town.”

A group called Duxbury for All — Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which Cullen heads, sent the selectmen a letter Tuesday condemning the football team’s behavior and calling for any adult who was aware of the offensive audibles and failed to act to be held accountable.

“Who uses ‘Auschwitz’ as an audible?" Cullen said. “Tom Brady uses ‘Oklahoma.’ “

Cullen cited the enormous power coaches wield over student-athletes.

“It certainly saddens us that none of the kids on the team the past couple of years while this happened felt safe enough or strong enough to come forward and say this isn’t right," she said.

Duxbury Town Manager Rene Read said in an interview with the Globe that the selectmen invited the diversity group to attend their next meeting on Monday.

Read said, “In 2021, it’s sad to see that these kinds of things can still happen. It’s certainly unfortunate and disappointing.”

Cullen said a very small number of anti-Semitic incidents, including alleged hate speech and swastika graffiti, have occurred in the Duxbury schools. In 1999, three girls who were sophomores at the high school were charged as juveniles with vandalizing a Jewish family’s home. A note was found at the scene stating, “That’s for not decorating for Christmas.”

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But since then, there “has been nothing to the level of this in Duxbury," Cullen said, referring to the football episode.

Duxbury athletic director Thom Holdgate indicated he is marshaling support services for students and staff.

“I have contacted both the ADL and Northeastern’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society as they have both worked with the MIAA in the past on educational opportunities,” Holdgate said.

He said additional groups such as the Positive Coaching Alliance “have also touched base with me about moving forward.”

Rabbi Howard Cohen of the Congregation Shirat Hayam in Duxbury described the episode as “a perfect teachable moment.”

Cohen said Duxbury school officials know he is available to consult. “For now, I am on hold waiting to see what they want to do,” he said by email.

Trestan said he encouraged Duxbury school officials “to be transparent with the community about what happened and conduct a thorough investigation to get all of the answers.”

He said, “They’ve indicated they are going to be responsive. The indications are that as soon as the superintendent learned of this, they acted immediately, which is positive.”

Trestan said he was especially concerned about indications that Duxbury teams were using the offensive terms to call plays “for quite some time without anyone even raising an eyebrow or complaining about it.”

One former student said the terms had been used in football practices in previous years but not in games.

Trestan said the ADL also believes the school district should determine “how many adults and coaches were aware of it and condoned it.”

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On Monday, Antonucci, assistant superintendent Danielle Klingaman, and principal James Donovan issued a statement to the town’s school community.

“It is important to note that while the players clearly demonstrated poor judgment, the responsibility for this incident also lies with the adults overseeing the program,” said the release. “In short, this was a systemic failure.”

The language, according to the officials, was not directed at Plymouth North or any individual, but they said there is “simply no excuse for it.”

The statement said the play-calling system was also “immediately halted.”

The episode casts a new light on Maimaron’s coaching legacy. A graduate of Archbishop Williams and UMass Boston, Maimaron has guided Duxbury to a 159-43 record and five Super Bowl titles since he was hired in 2005. His Duxbury teams have won 12 consecutive Patriot League titles.

Maimaron previously served for three years as offensive assistant on John DiBiaso’s staff at Everett High School. He also was an assistant girls’ hockey coach at Duxbury from 2006-11 and coached boys’ freshman lacrosse.

Maimaron earned his master’s in special education at Eastern Nazarene College, and his certificate of advanced graduate studies through Fitchburg State.

As a teacher in the school, Maimaron has union protections that authorities will need to observe as they consider any disciplinary action against him.

In his statement, Maimaron said the incident does not reflect the values of the football program, the school, or the town.

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“As a special education teacher and a coach, with a multiracial family, I have a lengthy record of helping students and athletes of all races, religions, and capabilities to become the best they can be,” he said. “I view the football field in particular to be the largest classroom in the school and have developed an inclusive program that welcomes, and makes part of the team, any student who wishes to participate.”

Duxbury is scheduled to play its next game, against Hingham, Friday, the day before the Jewish holiday Passover begins.

Alex Bernstein, a former NFL lineman whose son, Angus, plays for Hingham, said in an interview that the Duxbury incident represents “a huge failure of the enormous responsibility that a football coach has.”

Bernstein, who is Jewish, wrote on his Facebook page, “I faced some idiotic anti-Semitism at every level of football, just like my father did before me. .. I’m so filled with rage and sadness with thoughts that this hate lives on for another generation."

Hanna Krueger of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Trevor Hass and Brendan Kurie contributed to this report.


Bob Hohler can be reached at robert.hohler@globe.com.