‘They Turned Their Backs’: New York High School Basketball Players Say They Were Spit on, Called the N-Word By Opposing Teams; District Plans to Sue on Their Behalf

The Roosevelt School District in Long Island, New York, filed an official notice of claim on behalf of their boys’ basketball team that alleged they were called racial slurs and taunted during away games against two high schools in February.

Roosevelt High School boys basketball players and cheerleaders claimed that they were spit on, called the N-word, and had racists comments yelled at them by unruly fans from Wantagh High School and Lynbrook High School during away games at the two Hempstead, New York schools.

Sign in the front of Roosevelt High School. (Photo: Screenshot from ABC7 News youtube channel)

The notices of claim were filed on May 4 by Roosevelt Union Free School District against the Wantagh School District and the Nassau County Public High School Athletic Association for the alleged incidents during a Feb. 17 game between the two schools. They also filed a claim against the Lynbrook School District in relation to incidents that occurred during a Feb. 15 game.

Related: ‘It Is Unbelievable’: Atlanta High School Soccer Player Suspended by GHSA from Biggest Game After Speaking Out About Alleged Racist Taunts from Opponents; Other Team Faces No Penalty for Reportedly Hurling N-Word

“This was during the starting lineup call. They turned their backs,” said Rochelle Gooding, Roosevelt High School’s cheerleading coach, to CBS News.

Gooding said that sportsmanship and respect were put aside by opposing parents because they appeared to do nothing while the verbal abuse took place.

Wantagh and Lynbrook students reportedly swarmed the court, referees didn’t ask for handshakes, and parents from Roosevelt High School said they felt intimidated by their crowds.

Players were reportedly asked to document what happened after those games and said they heard the N-word.

Roosevelt leaders also alleged that Wantagh and Lynbrook leaders failed to intervene or discipline students during the games, which violates the Section 8 code of conduct.

“How are these people, in these white T-shirts and sweatshirts, with their backs turned and booing at the same time to their opponents, going to learn a lesson that that’s not how you treat people,” said Frederick Brewington, an attorney for the Roosevelt School District, to CBS News. 

Roosevelt school leaders said that their notice of claim doesn’t have to become a lawsuit if they can all meet and begin to fix their wrongs. They are reportedly seeking formal written apologies and demand training for all staff named in the claim.

“To make sure that their voice is heard and that the conversation, if never had before, will begin,” said Brewington to CBS News.

Roosevelt superintendent Deborah L. Wortham says there is a history of racial intimidation.

“What’s significant about this one is that the multiple two districts came together to make our students feel uncomfortable,” said Wortham to ABC7 News.

She continued, “It is our intent to change the picture for our students and to put it in a new frame.”

Attorneys for both Lynbrook and Wantagh attended the briefing last Thursday but said they and Section 8 Nassau Public High School Athletic Association cannot comment due to pending litigation.

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