This week, officials at Duxbury High School acknowledged that the football team used Jewish terms and Holocaust-related language on the field during a recent game. Head coach Dave Maimaron has been dismissed, and the team’s next game has been canceled.
Here’s what we know and what might come next:
On March 12, during a game against Plymouth North, players on the Duxbury football team used anti-Semitic language and a Holocaust-related term to call audibles — last-second calls at the line of scrimmage — using the words “rabbi,” “dreidel,” and “Auschwitz.”
It was the football team’s opener, with the season having been pushed back from the fall to the start of March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Plymouth school officials notified Duxbury authorities about the offensive terms.
The situation came to light after longtime Duxbury head coach Dave Maimaron did not coach against Silver Lake during Duxbury’s second game on March 19.
On Monday, Duxbury school officials issued a statement referring to “highly insensitive language” and saying that the responsibility lies with the coaches on the team.
What happened next?
On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League of New England told the Globe what the insensitive words were, and called for an investigation into how it happened.
“It’s deeply hurtful to the Jewish community to learn that the plays somehow connect to the Holocaust and Judaism,” ADL executive director Robert Trestan said. “This is a really serious situation. There are indications of a systemic failure both on and off the field.”
Duxbury school superintendent John Antonucci then acknowledged via statement that the language was not just “highly offensive” but also anti-Semitic.
What’s happening now?
Head coach Dave Maimaron has been fired, the school superintendent told the Globe on Wednesday. Read more about Maimaron’s firing here.
Duxbury’s next game, originally scheduled for Friday against Hingham, has been canceled. The school said in a statement that it would be “tone-deaf” to play at this time and will determine at a later date if the season should continue at all.
What’s the big deal about Duxbury football?
The Duxbury Dragons are one of the state’s most successful programs. They’ve won the Patriot League championship every year since 2008, and have five Super Bowls titles.
Who was the Duxbury football coach?
A graduate of Archbishop Williams and UMass Boston, Dave Maimaron guided Duxbury to a 159-43 record and five Super Bowl titles after being hired in 2005.
Maimaron 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.
Maimaron earned his master’s in special education at Eastern Nazarene College, and his certificate of advanced graduate studies through Fitchburg State.
Maimaron is also a teacher in the school system.
How did Maimaron respond before being fired?
Maimaron issued a statement to the Globe on Monday in which he apologized and said the coaching staff would take responsibility.
“The use of this language was careless, unnecessary and most importantly hurtful on its face — inexcusable. The staff and the team have been transparent and cooperative with administration during this time, and we have taken responsibility for the incident. We are dealing with this as a team and focusing on the lessons we can learn from this.”
Maimaron also pointed to his own background. He is a special education teacher within the Duxbury school system.
“As a special education teacher and a coach, with a multi-racial 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.”
What are play calls?
There’s a lot to keep track of in a football game. An easy way for coaches and players to communicate is by using play calls that correspond with specific moves. It’s the norm from the pros down to the high-school level.
Every program has a different system for calling checks and audibles — different types of play calls. Some change their terminology every year, some use “dummy signals” to try to fool opponents, but few programs, if any, allow players to determine which signals they will use without the coaches being aware of them.
At Old Rochester in Mattapoisett, second-year coach Bryce Guilbeault often uses players’ names to represent numbers (Tom Brady for 12, Julian Edelman for 11), which in turn represent play calls.
“We will let the kids name them sometimes,” he said. “If we’re running ‘dive,’ they might call it ‘scuba.’ I don’t really care what they call it is as long as they’re going to remember it and it’s appropriate.”
The Dragons’ audible system initially was meant to be used only in practices. The word “rabbi” was used to indicate “right side.”
Zane Fyfe, who is in his sixth year as coach at Apponequet, uses words like animals, or mascots, or mnemonic phrases.
“It’s all about relating it to something they understand or can relate a play to,” Fyfe said. “However, we’ve never used or condoned any derogatory verbiage.”
How long was the play-call system in place?
According to Trestan of the ADL, there are “indications” that the play-call system has been in place for “for quite some time.” A former student told the Globe the terms had been used in practice for years but not in games.
How has Duxbury’s administration responded?
In addition to the statements made by Antonucci, the superintendent, 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.”
How has the town reacted?
The Rev. Catherine Cullen — president of the Duxbury Interfaith Council and pastor of the town’s First Parish Church — told the Globe that the town is “absolutely outraged and appalled.”
Cullen heads a group called “Duxbury For All — Promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” which sent a letter to Duxbury’s selectmen condemning the language used by the team. Duxbury town manager Rene Read told the Globe the group has been invited to speak at the next town meeting on Monday.
Rabbi Howard Cohen of Congregation Shirat Hayam in Marshfield called the situation “a perfect teachable moment.”
The Duxbury football program is on pause, and it’s unclear if the season will resume.
“In light of what we’ve learned over the past couple of days, and how serious the matter is, we felt it would be tone-deaf to play a football game,” Antonucci said. “It’s becoming clear that this was a systemic failure that needs to be addressed. We felt that a pause to the football program was appropriate for this week.”
Antonucci said via a previous statement that “a decision about future games will be made at a later date.” The team has at least two more games on the schedule, against Whitman-Hanson on April 1 and Marshfield on April 9.
Katie McInerney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.