One after another, people from Lexington told the Nebraska School Activities Association Board of Directors about behavior they witnessed from opposing fans at sporting events.

They told of the “across the border” chants at a volleyball match, the student who showed up wearing a Border Patrol T-shirt and shouts of “go back to where you came from” to athletes of a school that is 84 percent Latino.

In raising awareness of the latest ugly chapter of racial taunts in Nebraska high school — and, in this case, also middle school — sports, the Lexington contingent asked the NSAA to craft stronger policies to prevent and dissuade such behavior by classifying it as bullying in addition to unsportsmanlike conduct.

The NSAA board must crack down on its member schools to dissuade and prevent discrimination of student-athletes and fans. There’s no place for the actions Lexington brought to light in school-sponsored activities — or in Nebraska.

School administrators have apologized to Lexington, as they should. But this is no place for the “kids will be kids” defense. Today, hate crimes in America have risen sharply because of bigots emboldened by political turmoil.

NSAA Executive Director Jim Tenopir took a strong, necessary stance in the agency’s October newsletter: “Racial discrimination, innuendo, name calling and other hijinks in the name of school spirit need to cease and need to cease immediately,” he wrote. “ ... It is necessary for school administrators and supervisors to rein in such inappropriate racial epithets and discriminatory actions.”

One school facing these taunts and actions is too many. Sports should be a force for yielding unity, not division. Unfortunately, other majority-minority schools have reported similar behaviors.

Schuyler’s athletic director penned a widely shared column this spring, detailing how athletes at his school, nearly 80 percent Latino, were subjected to taunts of: “Yeah, we are playing a bunch of Mexicans; it should be an easy game,” “Those kids can’t even speak English” and “Wait until Trump sends them all home.”

The list goes on and on: Lincoln East’s 2010 state soccer title was marred by students’ faux green cards, insulting Omaha South. Ralston students threw tortillas onto the basketball court to mock Latinos at Omaha Gross in 1995. Both incidents made national headlines.

The four “Americana nights,” which Lexington’s athletic director reported that opposing students scheduled for when the Minutemen or Minutemaids visited town, can raise questions about potential underlying motives. Those events can be done tastefully and without racially fueled jabs.

By no means is this a majority of students or parents. Still, it’s a shame we have to remind this minority to be good sports without resorting to ignorance and discrimination. Accordingly, we encourage the NSAA to adopt tougher measures to discourage these kinds of actions.

— Journal Star. October 11, 2017

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