School officials in Yakima and Moses Lake are looking into reports of racist comments allegedly directed at Davis High School fans and players during Saturday night’s boys varsity basketball game at Moses Lake.
Moses Lake superintendent Joshua Meek put out a statement on Facebook on Sunday regarding the alleged incident and a news release on Monday indicating he had heard “over 20 reports of what transpired.” He said the district would immediately begin a third-party investigation to determine what happened and make recommendations for how to respond.
“A culture of hate is in no way acceptable and if these reports are validated, corrective action will occur,” Meek said in Monday’s statement. “But most importantly this must serve as a continuing lesson of acceptance and respect that we teach our students.”
Yakima School District spokeswoman Kirsten Fitterer said Davis school officials interviewed students in Yakima on Monday to learn more at the request of the Moses Lake district.
Arquette Joe made the trip north to watch his son, sophomore Dhantaye Bennet-Joe, who is multiracial. During the third quarter of a close game that Moses Lake ended up winning 80-69, some fans from both teams began to talk to each other, as often happens at high school sporting events.
“It was just kind of weird how it happened, the kids were going back and forth,” Joe said. “Some kids started flipping off our crowd and they were getting mad.”
Joe then went over to the student section to ask Moses Lake’s fans to tone it down, and he said they respectfully agreed. But as he went back to his seat, an older Moses Lake fan called him over, then told him, “Go back to Yakima, you n-----.”
Joe added that players heard several comments from students in the crowd as well as opposing players that clearly crossed the line beyond typical high school taunting. A Facebook post from another Davis parent who was in attendance said the N-word was directed at players during the game.
Afterward, multiple police officers escorted the Davis team from the gym out to the bus, Joe said. Joe said he spoke with Meek and was assured the administration would look over videos from the game, including one purporting to show the man who used the racial slur.
“While we have video surveillance that can be utilized, I would appreciate any firsthand knowledge and reports from those in attendance at the game,” Meek said in his statement. “Please contact me directly through this account or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We must promote mutual understanding and respect for diversity and each other.”
The incident brought back memories for Joe from when he played for coach Shag Williams at Davis and would often hear racist comments from opposing fans at Moses Lake and elsewhere. But Joe said until Saturday his son hadn’t heard anything like that at any games, including a tough loss last season at Moses Lake.
Davis is scheduled to host Moses Lake on Jan. 24. Pirates athletic director Bob Stanley said he appreciated the steps being taken by the Moses Lake administration to investigate the situation.