WELLESLEY — After some Wellesley High School students directed racial taunts at Black players on the Weymouth High boys’ basketball team during warmups Friday, school officials required that all students attending a home game against Brookline High on Tuesday be accompanied by an adult.
In a letter sent to parents Monday, high school principal Jamie Chisum said that Wellesley students were so rowdy during Friday’s game that a referee had to order them to back away from the court to assure there was no physical contact with the players. When the game was over, students flooded the court in celebration before the teams could have their traditional handshake, he wrote.
“Because we need to do everything we can to make sure any guests who come to Wellesley High School are treated with respect and dignity, we will only allow student fans to come to the game if they are seated with an adult” for Tuesday’s game against Brookline High, Chisum wrote.
“We will also be taking steps at any future home basketball games this year and in the future to ensure that our crowd remains an appropriate distance from the court and their language is monitored,” he wrote.
During Tuesday afternoon’s 52-48 win over Brookline, the front row of bleachers was covered in black plastic sheeting. Signs placed every few feet said, “No spectator seating in this row.”
The racist incident began when the Weymouth players were going through warm-up drills before tipoff, Chishum wrote.
“During warmups for the game, racial slurs were directed toward some Black players on the Weymouth team from our student section,” Chisum wrote. “The players heard the terms but did not see who said them. They reported the incident to their coaches after the game and it was then the coaches brought the information forward to us.”
Chisum said an investigation is underway. If any student is identified as the source of the slurs, they will face discipline, he said.
“We are all upset and disappointed that anyone from our school could have engaged in the behavior of abusing others with racist language,” Chisum wrote.
“The Weymouth coaching staff complimented the boys on our basketball team for playing a clean, fair game and never engaging in any inappropriate behaviors,” he added.
Wellesley won the game 55-50, according to Weymouth’s Boys Basketball Twitter account.
Wellesley Public Schools Superintendent David Lussier said his staff has apologized to Weymouth school officials and that “hate speech has no place in our district.”
“It’s critical that we speak with a clear voice and name this behavior as both unacceptable and contrary to our core values as a district,” he said in a statement. “No one deserves to be treated this way, particularly student-athletes who travel to our district to compete.”
At Tuesday’s game, parents and others who attended said there were no disruptions from students.
“It seemed like everybody was on their best behavior today,” said Barry, a Brookline parent who declined to give his last name, “Everyone was cheering for both sides, and it was a pretty hard-fought game on both sides.”
Barry said he hopes this can be a teachable moment for the students involved.
“I coached for a long time; I played for a long time,” he said. “Things like that are unfortunate, in today’s society especially. Sometimes there’s bad apples everywhere. As long as they can nip it in the bud and teach people how to be better people — at the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for.”
Karimah Williams, who is married to Brookline High boys basketball coach Johnny Williams, said “behavior in the stands was fine” during Tuesday’s game.
“There was definitely no issues when it came to behavior in the stands,” she said. “I can’t say that there was any discomfort or any kind of tension being here.”
Williams said the Brookline players were aware of the incident at Friday’s game and likely were wary of what they might encounter.
“I think coming in, you’re always a little bit more alarmed … because it’s not sure what you’re going to come and face,” she said. “It is tough coming into a game and knowing that kind of energy was there.”