LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Last Friday, Tates Creek and Pulaski County went head-to-head, and it was like any other football game this season.
That is until Tates Creek parent Eric Perkins said he noticed something was wrong with his son.
"He came to the side of the field, visibly upset and having a verbal conversation with the coach in a manner in which was out of character," Perkins said. "It was very aggressive, and you could tell he was upset."
Perkins said he went down to the field where someone told him that a Pulaski County player had called his son the n-word.
"[It was] not because they listen to rap and they put the 'a' on the end, but the hard 'er,' meaningful, with purpose, directed a young black man trying to play football on this field," Perkins said.
Despite this, Perkins said his son put his helmet back on, went to the field and finished the game.
"To stand up and still finish the job even though you know that you're being targeted for something you have no control over says a lot for him, and I see nothing but greatness," Perkins said.
Another parent, Will Witherington, heard a similar story from his son. Witherington said he was in the car going home from the game when his son and another player said they heard Pulaski players lobbed multiple slurs against Black Tates Creek players.
Witherington decided to write a letter to Pulaski leadership, and the KHSAA alerting them to the issue.
"My larger concern is not to name names, point fingers, blame," Witherington said. "But I think it's important for me as a white man to speak up. To say I'm not going to stand for this, and I don't want to be a part of a community that's having to endure all of this."
In response to these allegations, the Pulaski County coach said he has talked to coaches, officials, and players, none of whom said they heard any slurs that night. Nevertheless, coach John Hines said he is committed to learning what happened and making sure his players know that behavior is unacceptable.
"We've never had a racial issue of any kind, so this is quite alarming for us," Hines said. "We have all types of players of color within our own program, so we're certainly not going to tolerate anything like that at any time."
KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett has released the following statement:
"We have worked with our member schools as they have reviewed the allegations from last Friday night. If, and I stress if, this type of conduct occurred, it is reprehensible and has no place in interscholastic athletics, now, in the past, or in the future. Our Board and staff remain committed to the principles of both institutional control and the learning laboratory of interscholastic athletics that presents itself for all of those involved. Just in September, the Board of Control approved an amendment to its diversity policy statement [https://bit.ly/3oOf4RW [bit.ly]] for its expectation of the member school to specifically identify hate speech as an issue that must not be tolerated.
In this specific situation, it is more likely than not that a couple of apparently isolated situations did in fact occur and neither school has contested that fact. The two schools have worked collaboratively and extensively in their review and will continue to work together to ensure this experience becomes an appropriate teachable moment for these young people. The coaches and contest officials are to be commended for their efforts during the contest to address the alleged situation and ensure there was no escalation."