The events that transpired during the Greenbrier East and Woodrow Wilson High Schools girls’ basketball game have taken center stage in a discussion surrounding not only the statements of Governor Jim Justice but also the reactions of the WV State Police during the game.
First, the Governor’s statement referring to the Woodrow Wilson players as “a bunch of thugs.” We are profoundly disappointed in Governor Justice. His choice of words, “choice,” are a direct affront to the African American citizens of this state.
We are all acutely aware that racism continues to be woven into the fabric of West Virginia. We are still in many ways combating the discriminatory practices and divisive attitudes of the majority population and the powers who continue to promote them.
The girls of Woodrow Wilson are not deserving of such an undermining, unfair and untrue label. Sports have traditionally been a forum where young men and women are given the opportunity to develop skills that will shape their futures in a positive way.
High school sporting events are no place for racist chants. All students and athletes must be provided with a safe place to thrive. Governor Justice’s statement and lack of a true apology has inflicted further pain on the community. In a state where polarization is the norm, the governor’s choice of words has added insult to injury.
Five players from the Woodrow Wilson team (were) suspended for two games each for leaving the floor. The words that you used were hurtful and caused harm, resulting in a damaged relationship with Woodrow Wilson High School. You are, first and foremost, the governor. While you may wear many hats, including that of coach, the one hat you do not take off is that of being governor of all people in the state. You have an opportunity to learn from this incident. We are asking that you meet publicly with and apologize to the students, faculty and families of the Woodrow Wilson High School community. Doing so will restore trust in your leadership as a coach and as a governor.
Now, to address the treatment of Mr. Nabors and his son Donte. You have a man who took positive action by approaching proper authorities to intervene in a volatile situation that needed to be deescalated. Instead of justice and de-escalation, he was physically assaulted by the police for his efforts. Where is the justice in this? Mr. Nabors was walking away from a discussion when he was thrown to the floor and arrested. This is just another example of the injustice.
In closing, we need to be clear on expectations.
We expect parents to behave as parents at any and all school functions. This means racism is and will not be tolerated.
We expect Governor Justice to be true to his name and behave justly. We are calling for the forfeiture of the game to be removed and the game to be rescheduled at a neutral location.
We are calling for sensitivity and diversity training for all police officers on all levels within the state of West Virginia.
Lastly, but not least of all, we are calling for Governor Justice to show proper decorum before, during and after all games or step down from coaching until his term as governor has ended.
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Raleigh County NAACP Unit