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Two Student-Athletes Teased with ‘Reprehensible’ Comments Made by Mainly White Middle School Basketball Team In New Jersey

A school district is under fire after allegations of racial slurs being directed at players on the court during a girls basketball game in Barnegat, New Jersey, this week. 

Michael Inzelbuch, a lawyer for the Lakewood Board of Education, told the Washington Post that one of the student-athletes claimed she was called a “Black b-tch” and that her fellow teammate was called “homeless” and that she should go back to a shelter because her shoes were not meant for the sport.

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Inzelbuch called the alleged incidents “reprehensible.” 

“The fact that it was players and not fans makes it even worse. As reprehensible as (the racial comment) is, the other comment bothers me equally because a lot of these kids can’t afford certain things,” Inzelbuch added.

The Lakewood Middle School basketball team of 19 predominantly Black girls was up against a mainly white team 30 miles away at Russell O. Brackman Middle School when the abuse occurred on Wednesday, Jan. 12. 

Inzelbuch said the first two quarters were played without incident until the third quarter, when the students claimed the opposing team began teasing them.

“Many our kids come from poverty, so they don’t have basketball sneakers,” Inzelbuch shared. “They might be wearing different types of sneakers.” The girls’ coach was not made aware of the event until after the game, when school officials were quickly notified. 

However, Barnegat Superintendent Brian Latwis felt the incident should’ve been presented to the coaches and referees during the game “so they could be addressed immediately” and not by Lakewood going to the press.

“We take these allegations very seriously and have a detailed harassment, intimidation, and bullying policy in place,” Latwis said in an emailed statement.

“This type of alleged behavior is not tolerated, and we are working to determine the validity of these accusations. We would have preferred to address this matter directly and more immediately, rather than be notified about the filing of incident reports through the media.”

Latwis sent a letter to parents on Jan. 14 describing the results of the Barnegat district’s investigation.

“We were able to determine that several student spectators seated behind Barnegat’s team bench made offensive and insensitive comments,” his letter read. Latwis said those students will be disciplined.

Inzelbuch said the Lakewood district will be purchasing sneakers for 10 of the 19 girls on the team who did not own proper footwear. The children are expected to receive the attire sometime in the coming week.

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