#PlayFairNow: The Alleged Racism on the Football Field

Graphic from Twitter.com.

Graphic from Twitter.com.

The Wakefield Football Team of Arlington County is reacting to what they claim was racism from referees, players, and parents of Marshall High School of FCPS on Friday, March 5.

Many players took to social media to spread awareness of the incident. Wakefield wide receiver Lukai Hatcher posted his side of the story to Instagram on March 17. Hatcher posted two attachments to Instagram. The first post was an image of the #PlayFairNow and a subtitle “advocating for minority athletes.” This graphic has been posted on multiple other Instagram accounts that are showing their support.

The next post was a video from the game which showed a dispute between two players. Hatcher wrote in his caption the following: “[the] build of events during the game led to one of Marshall’s player’s spitting on one of our players.”

The video also shows the teams trying to separate their players after the altercation. The outcome of the interaction resulted in both Wakefield and Marshall players getting a one-game suspension, which was originally a three-game suspension. Hatcher’s caption also suggested that Marshall’s athletic teams are known for racial and unsportsmanlike behavior.

However, Marshall parents released a statement stating that, “There is absolutely no culture of racism and bigotry at Marshall High School on the football team. The head coach, Jason Strickland, and many assistant coaches are African-American, the only white coach is a female.”

Further into the statement, which was published by a local media source, the Tysons Reporter, the Marshall parents ask the public and press to “please watch the video and see who attacked first.” They claim that the Marshall players retaliated against an action that came first from the Wakefield players. “[A] Wakefield player pulled the Marshall player down to the ground by his facemask and Marshall players retaliated,” they wrote.

The explanation given by the parents is named “Marshall v Wakefield Football Game: The Facts Behind the Stories” and goes in depth about the incident. It ends with, “We in the community are deeply saddened by these comments, we are working to change the narrative of this story today.” The Marshall parents insist that the allegations are “wrongful” and “questionable.” They also said that, “Allegations of racial slurs by our players, are just that — allegations.”

Hatcher’s post nonetheless got a fair amount of attention. The comments under his post are supportive. Future offensive tackle for Clemson Football, Tristan Leigh, commented “well said bro #PlayFairNow.” Some students of Marshall H.S. commented things like “can I switch schools?” and “I am embarrassed to belong to a school that tolerates this.” The 1,099 comments are mostly filled with users tagging news accounts, reporters and of course the #PlayFairNow.

Link to #PlayFairNow petition on Change.org.

A mother of Wakefield player Kevin Robinson, Monique Brown-Bryant, started a petition to help spread awareness on change.org. At the end of the petition Brown-Bryant stated four things that the Wakefield community would like to see happen:

  1. An immediate apology from Marshall and their football program.
  2. An apology from the VHSL for not ensuring fair play.
  3. A reversal of the suspension for the attacked players.
  4. Mandatory diversity and inclusion training for local athletes, coaches and officials.

Brown-Bryant is passionate about this incident being “bigger than football.” She wrote, “We will no longer tolerate a culture of systemic racism, blatant racism and bigotry.”

Although FCPS has not responded to the incident, Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia has. “An incident did occur between Marshall and Wakefield high schools where Marshall players used racial slurs at the Wakefield football team,” Bellavia said in an interview with ARLnow.