Learn from incident at basketball game, make sure it doesn't happen again

What happened in Jamestown tells us we have a long way to go.

JSSP Letter to Editor

I am a proud Jamestown native, growing up in the era of Jerry Meyer Blue Jay basketball. As a kid, my grandpa and my dad took me to every home game and there was nothing like it. Even now, 40 years removed from my high school graduation, I have yet to find anything in sports at any level that matches those games. The excitement, the energy, and the community spirit.

These idyllic memories were shattered when I saw the news clip and heard the racist taunts coming from the Jamestown student section at a recent game. They were directed toward two 15-year-old kids of color on the opposing team who traveled to Jamestown to play a basketball game and departed with painful scars that will sting for a lifetime. We have read books and watched movies about the abuse that Jackie Robinson was subjected to when he broke the Major League Baseball color barrier in 1946. We shudder and we wonder how it could have happened. But now we see it happen in Jamestown in 2023. I’m glad the students responsible are being disciplined and that “a road forward towards cultural competence” is being “considered”. But that is not enough.

Beyond the students, this is an opportunity for the entire community to reflect and to grow. The racist taunts were not subtle. Everyone at the game heard them and nobody acted. The game continued. If not for the courage of the parents of these kids and their formal complaint would anything have been done? Is this the first time? Or has it happened before? I’m not saying it's easy. There have been times that I have failed to speak up or act when confronted with racism. But to truly end racism, every one of us must be prepared to act boldly in the moment whenever we are confronted with it.

Another source of pride in Jamestown is that this is the place where Ted “Double-Duty” Radcliffe was a player-manager for an integrated baseball team in 1934 (the Jamestown Red Sox), making Jamestown the first place in the United States in which a black manager managed white professional players. But what happened at that basketball game last week tells us that we still have a long way to go. Let’s learn from this and make sure it doesn’t happen again in our hometown.

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