Almost two years after the Franklin boys basketball team was greeted with racial epithets and mocking gestures during an away game at Hunterdon Central, a racially offensive photo involving at least one Hunterdon Central student went viral on social media.
Now officials at the Franklin school district are seriously considering not sending Franklin’s teams to compete at Hunterdon Central.
Enough is enough.
Those were essentially the words of Franklin Schools Superintendent John Ravally after reviewing the photo that mocks the fatal knee-on-neck submission tactic that killed George Floyd last May, expressing his outrage Thursday at the district’s board of education meeting, according to a story Friday at franklinreporter.com.
Ravally strongly suggested that Franklin not send its athletic teams to away games this year to the Flemington-based school as long as this type of racially divisive behavior persists within that school community, the story said .
Ravally reportedly said at the meeting, “I understand, and we understand, and we are concerned, and it was a disheartening and, quote, appalling incident, to be honest with you. I know they’re investigating at Hunterdon Central and we’re going to be dealing with that over the next couple of days.”
The high school season begins Monday for girls tennis and later in the week for other sports, though no Franklin team is scheduled to travel to Flemington until a girls soccer match Nov. 10. The football team played Hunterdon Central at home last year, but does not have a game this season due to the compressed sports calendar.
Ravally was contacted by NJ.com for further amplification but did not immediately respond. Jeffrey Moore, the superintendent for the Hunterdon Central Regional School District also did not return a phone message, but forwarded the following statement:
“Hunterdon Central’s student athletes and coaches join our entire school in condemnation of all acts of racism, and believe that athletics is one of the best ways for communities to build bridges. We remain in contact with Franklin High School, with hopes that our students can step onto the field together this season.”
WARNING: Offensive image below.
The viral photo that has Ravally and others upset is that of two young people reenacting the widespread image of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Floyd, an act that ultimately led to Floyd’s death last May 25 and sparked worldwide protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In the widely shared image, one young man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap kneels on the throat of another person striking the defenseless pose of Floyd while wearing an ape mask, as previously reported by NJ Advance Media. Black parents at Hunterdon Central were outraged and questioned the district’s commitment and ability to address what one parent called “pervasive” racism at Hunterdon Central. In the wake of the photo, Hunterdon Central has formed a committee on “Racism, Equity and Diversity,” so far comprised of four members of it’s all-white school board, promising to diversify the committee with non board members.
The shared image likely strikes a familiar chord with Franklin basketball players and fans in attendance at the 2018-19 season opener on the road at Hunterdon Central. It was reported then that some Hunterdon Central students had barked racial taunts and mimicked monkey sounds toward the Warriors. Hunterdon Central won easily that night, 75-47.
A former Hunterdon Central player who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal said acquaintances at the game that night backed those accounts, yet also added that Hunterdon Central students who’d been fingered as instigators denied accusations.That incident was reported to the NJSIAA, which investigated and filed a report with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.According to NJSIAA spokesman Mike Cherenson, “The Franklin administration (superintendent, principal and athletic director) met with Hunterdon Central administration (Jan. 10, 2019) and discussed ways that both schools could partner together to build better relationships between the districts. On 1/22/19 schools played a game with no issue of any kind reported.”
According to recent demographic figures from the New Jersey Department of Education, Hunterdon Central High School is 79%, 10.3 % Hispanic and 2.9% Black. In comparison, Franklin High School is 40.1% Black.
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