At an Atlantic County, New Jersey, high school basketball game, students from Holy Spirit High School dressed as a monkey and a banana in order to distract a free throw shooter from Atlantic City High School. The dress-up distraction now elicits charges of racism.
The skit under the basket also included another student as a cowgirl and a fourth as a bumblebee, but that did not deter the Cape Atlantic League’s board of referees, which told NBC10 that the skit was inappropriate, and said it had reprimanded the game’s referees. The students from Holy Spirit held up a shower curtain to hide several spectators who would jump out to distract Atlantic City free-throwers.
Even though it is unlikely the actions sprang from racism, as four-fifths of the starting team for Holy Spirit is black, Anthony Nistico, the Atlantic City Athletic Director, spouted, “What I am appalled at is there are adults there that let this happen. These two students were allowed to walk into the gym in these costumes and with this shower curtain. What were the adults thinking? Where were the refs?” He added, “Because it is Black History Month, it makes it even more offensive and insensitive. It’s unfortunate that it would happen in this day and age.”
Holy Spirit Coach Jamie Gillespie said:
There’s absolutely nothing that was intended to be racial whatsoever. It was a group of kids trying to have fun with something they saw on television. There was no malice there whatsoever. If anybody wants to make it out to be that, it’s not. We have a respectable school community. We have four of our starters that are African-American kids. I mean, come on. That’s not what that’s about. It was just kids not thinking through what their perception should be, but there was absolutely nothing racial and somebody is making something racial about it.
Jay Connell, Holy Spirit’s athletic director, responded to the incident with a statement, which read: “I am not going kick anyone out of school or whip anybody. All I can do is apologize; I can’t take it back. There is no punishment. The punishment is that it will be an event that will not happen again, and that is the punishment for Holy Spirit.”
The Press of Atlantic City reported that parents and fans of the Holy Spirit team met an Atlantic City assistant coach after the game to apologize for the incident.
In the end, the distractions did not matter. Atlantic City beat Holy Spirit, 54-53.