A recent youth soccer game in Vermont turned painful for many involved, with investigations now underway into dueling reports of both racial slurs and brutal hits on the playing field.
At issue is what happened during a boys’ varsity soccer game September 18 in Winooski, which Winooski won 3-2.
Winooski is Vermont’s one school district where more than half of students are Black, Asian or from other nonwhite groups, according to school records.
Over the weekend, in a lengthy statement, Winooski schools Superintendent Sean McMannon said three opponents from the visiting team, Enosburg Falls High School, as well as some spectators, used racially abusive slurs against Winooski players.
Those included the N word, McMannon wrote.
In his message to the community, McMannon acknowledged roughhousing by both sides, but wrote that that slur is “an act of violence equal to if not greater than a physical punch.”
McMannon also called on the Vermont Principals’ Association, the governing body for Vermont school athletics, to establish more robust anti-racism policies throughout its athletics programs.
The VPA said Monday that it is committed to safety and equity for all kids and that it is actively working on several steps Winooski wants to see happen.
Those measures include mandatory anti-bias training for coaches and game officials and tools for reporting racist incidents, said Jay Nichols, the executive director of the Vermont Principals’ Association.
Hussein Amuri, a Winooski graduate who is now in college, testified last year before the school board that soccer players have long faced harmful language at games.
“During our soccer games, we have people — white parents — saying some really racial stuff,” Amuri said in July of 2020. “Do you know what that does to a person’s identity to be called the N word? This has got to stop. This has got to stop.”
In the most recent incident, the visiting players have their own accusations, that an Enosburg player was struck really hard in the head during the game by a Winooski athlete.
“The District is investigating both sets of allegations,” wrote Lynn Cota, the superintendent of the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union, in response to an inquiry. “If either is found to be true, we will take whatever disciplinary action we can to hold the parties responsible.”
Cota went on to say that racism and physical violence do not belong on athletic fields or in any other school facilities. She indicated any possible disciplinary action could not come until the conclusion of the investigation.
In the meantime, a display of solidarity is expected at Tuesday night’s game in Winooski, with community members saying racism has no place in their city.