An Indiana high school track coach has been given the pink slip after his blackface Bob Marley costume ignited controversy.
Despite pleas from those who supported him, Brown County High School track and football coach Richard Gist was terminated Thursday, Feb. 7, after a vote by the school board.
“I just ask that you, the board, give me the opportunity to prove to you that I am an asset to this county,” Gist said at the meeting ahead of the decision.
“He’s not a racist. That I can say 100 percent,” one woman remarked on his behalf.
Brown County Schools offered Gist a plan to return to the school as a substitute teacher and assistant football coach next school year, Fox59 reported.
The board told Gist he needed to resign as assistant track coach so as to avoid being a distraction. In the “cooling off” period in his time away, he’d have to participate in cultural competency training and online civility training. Both pieces of training will be implemented among all BCS staff and coaches.
However, Gist declined the plan solely on the grounds that he refused to write a letter of resignation in response to the backlash that ensued over his Facebook photo.
“We believe the offensive image Mr. Gist posted, as well the handling of his social media account and the ensuing conversation surrounding the image, showed a distinct lack of discretion and good judgment by a role model,” the board said in a statement.
“We are disappointed that he subsequently declined the offer which then precipitated his termination as an assistant track coach and substitute teacher,” the statement continued. “BCS has committed to move forward with cultural sensitivity and online civility training for its staff and coaches. We believe our role models will then be better equipped to fulfill that responsibility and provide a safe and welcoming environment to all our students and to our community.”
Gist initially apologized for the picture that went viral on Facebook last month after a community member sent a screenshot to Superintendent Dr. Laura Hammack. The ex-coach, who made the photo his profile picture in an effort to prove there’s nothing wrong with it, explained the image was taken out of context. He also noted it was snapped at a Halloween party in 2007 or 2008.
“I dressed up as this person out of respect for him and what he believes and not in the intent of offending anybody or insinuating that another race is superior to any other,” he said in his apology.