DUXBURY — The longtime head coach of the Duxbury High School football team, Dave Maimaron, was fired Wednesday, as the fallout widened from disclosures that his players used Holocaust-related language and Jewish words to call plays during a recent game.
The school’s upcoming game against Hingham was also canceled, along with upcoming junior varsity and freshman games, and the Duxbury school district hired an outside investigator to examine what happened. It’s unclear if or when the team’s season will resume.
“We want to be perfectly clear that we recognize how serious this is, and it is getting our undivided attention,” said Superintendent John Antonucci in a letter to the community announcing the district’s response.
In addition to losing his coaching position, Maimaron has been placed on administrative leave from his position teaching special education at the school, according to Ellis Strategies, a public relations firm working with the town’s school district.
The status of Maimaron’s assistant coaches is also under review, according to Antonucci.
Calls for an investigation began earlier this week, when Duxbury High officials acknowledged that the school’s football players called audibles — last-second play changes at the line of scrimmage — during a March 12 game by using terms such as “Auschwitz,” “rabbi,” and “dreidel.” Officials from the opposing school, Plymouth North, notified Duxbury authorities afterward about the offensive terms.
In Duxbury on Wednesday, residents expressed a range of reactions to the controversy. Some said they were appalled by the team’s behavior and supported the firing of Maimaron. But others in the South Shore town, including those who personally knew the former coach, said they remained torn: While they could not condone his actions, they wanted to note his positive work in the community.
Elaine Haffey, who has lived in town for two decades, and who sent two children through the school system, said her son played football for Maimaron, and she called him a good coach and mentor.
“This is not a joke — these things do need to be taken seriously,” she said outside the Brothers Marketplace shopping strip off Depot Street. But, she added, before news of the coach’s termination was announced, “I think it would be a huge loss for our town, our schools, and our sports if Dave Maimaron is not a part of it.”
John Duggan, another town resident, said he felt the controversy was overblown.
“They’re 16-year-old kids, they’ll learn,” he said. “He’s a pretty solid guy, helped a lot of kids in this town.”
Nancy Brown, also a town resident, said the uproar over the incident was “beyond common sense.”
“We don’t have to be offended by everything,” said Brown, who said she has Jewish ancestry and was unfazed. “I think they’re blowing it out of proportion.”
John Balboni, a lifelong resident and retiree, said the play codes of “rabbi” and “dreidel” seemed harmless. “Why would there be an uproar?” he wondered. But then, he asked himself, why use the word Auschwitz?
“There’s no logic in that,” he said, shaking his head.
Maimaron, who led Duxbury to a 159-43 record and five Super Bowl titles since he was hired in 2005, issued an apology on Monday.
“I want to extend my apology for the insensitive, crass, and inappropriate language used in the game on March 12th,” he said in a statement. “The use of this language was careless, unnecessary, and most importantly hurtful on its face — inexcusable.”
The coach was missing from the sidelines during Duxbury’s most recent game against Silver Lake on March 19, the first game after the Plymouth North game where the terms were used.
He previously served for three years as an 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.
Antonucci said that Duxbury Public Schools have, in recent years, “shone a spotlight on the need to promote antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion.” While the schools had already identified that as a priority before this week, Antonucci said, the use of anti-Semitic terms by the team has made the need even more clear.
Antonucci said the schools have established partnerships with organizations such as Duxbury For All, the Interfaith Council, and Duxbury Rotary, among others.
After the use of the language came to light, the Anti-Defamation League of New England on Tuesday called for “a full-scale independent investigation.” A number of groups have denounced the anti-Semitic language and joined calls for an investigation.
The Duxbury Teachers Association said in a statement Wednesday that “the allegations of anti-Semitism deserve an immediate and fair investigation,” adding that it “finds all forms of racism, ethnic bias, and prejudice to be abhorrent.”
Duxbury For All, a group focused on diversity and inclusion, will attend the Board of Selectmen’s public meeting on Monday to discuss the incident, according to the town manager.
Massachusetts politicians, including state Senator Barry Finegold, expressed concern and outrage.
Finegold, who is Jewish and played football at Andover High School, issued a letter to the Duxbury football team inviting players to meet to discuss the use of the term “Auschwitz.”
“I have heard a lot of line-of-scrimmage audibles, but I never heard anyone use ‘Auschwitz’ before,” he wrote. “I thought it might be productive to have an open conversation about the meaning of Auschwitz and why it was painful to hear that your team used Holocaust-related terminology on the field.”
Finegold referenced the recent suspension and punishment of NBA player Meyers Leonard, who used an anti-Semitic slur while live-streaming a video game. Patriots running back Julian Edelman, who is Jewish, posted an open letter addressing that incident: “I get the sense that you didn’t use that word out of hate, more out of ignorance. That’s what makes it so destructive.”
Antonucci, the superintendent, said in his letter that the fact members of the school community used such offensive language is “horrifying and disappointing.”
“The outrage is real, warranted, and we hear it,” he said.
Globe correspondent Trevor Hass and Katie McInerney and Bob Hohler of the Globe staff contributed to this report.