WPIAL to look into alleged racial, homophobic slurs during Connellsville-Allderdice boys soccer game
Two varsity soccer players from Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh were “goaded … with racial slurs” during a Labor Day boys soccer match against Connellsville Area High School, according to a group of parents.
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said Monday in a prepared statement he is aware of the incident, and the administration has filed a complaint with the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League.
“No student should be subjected to any racial slurs in a space that is to encourage healthy competition, teamwork and camaraderie,” Hamlet said.
In response, the WPIAL board voted unanimously Monday to call in representatives from Connellsville and Allderdice for a hearing, WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley said. The WPIAL will bring together “principals, athletic directors, head coaches and select soccer players in an attempt to establish what very well may have happened,” O’Malley said.
A date for the hearing was not immediately set but likely would occur early next week, O’Malley said.
Hamlet said the Connellsville administration has not been able to substantiate the allegations.
However, “they have informed us that they are taking actions on their end to create a teachable moment for student-athletes,” Hamlet said.
Connellsville Area School District in a statement alleged that Allderdice players directed homophobic comments toward a Connellsville player.
“The Connellsville Area School District denounces racism and emphatically maintains that racism in any form has no place in our civil society, much less in educational settings in the classroom or on the playing field,” the statement said. “Likewise, the District deplores the types of homophobic comments allegedly made by Taylor Allderdice players towards a Connellsville soccer player. The District takes every allegation of racism or homophobia seriously and is committed to addressing all such claims. Upon receiving the allegations, the district immediately began investigating the claims and has requested all relevant evidence and information from site officials, game officials, and Connellsville and Allderdice personnel and players.
“We thank everyone for their patience and cooperation throughout this process.”
The nonsection game took place during the Paul Sasko Kickoff Classic in Belle Vernon in which multiple school teams from the region competed in matches, said Jim Rosenberg, a parent of an Allderdice varsity soccer player.
More than 30 Allderdice parents signed an open letter to regional sports officials, which was published Sept. 15 and attached to a Change.org petition entitled “Confront Racism in Western Pennsylvania.”
The petition garnered more than 1,400 signatures as of Monday evening.
Rosenberg worked with parents to draft the letter. Another parent, Henry Willis, also helped with the letter and created the online petition. Their sons were not on the receiving end of the alleged racial slurs, they both said.
“This incident has raised in our community the issues of racial intimidation and racial intolerance,” Rosenberg said. “People just don’t want to stand for this anymore.”
Rosenberg and Willis declined to comment on specifics of the allegations and instead pointed to the letter.
“Despite the best efforts of many, racism is alive and well on the fields of Western Pennsylvania high school sports,” the letter said. “On the field, Connellsville players goaded one black and one Latino member of the Allderdice team with racial slurs.”
The letter goes on to contend that Connellsville players also “utilized forms of physical touching likely intended to distract and intimidate,” which qualified as inappropriate conduct.
The letter cites the 2020 National Federation of State High School Associations Soccer Rules Book, which governs Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association soccer teams.
“The NFHS disapproves of any form of taunting which is intended or designed to embarrass, ridicule or demean others under any circumstances including on the basis of race, religion, gender or national origin,” says the 2020 NFHS Soccer Rules Book.
Parents pointed out three other separate racially charged incidents dating back to 2012, 2017 and 2018.
The incident from 2012 involved Brentwood High School students who wore banana suits while taunting players from Monessen High School. In February 2017, Connellsville fans reportedly targeted black high school basketball players with chants of “build that wall” and “get them out of here.”
In September 2018, WPIAL officials ruled Connellsville varsity soccer players likely used “at least some racial slurs or racially insensitive comments” directed at Penn Hills players.
The Connellsville Area School District was required by WPIAL officials to hire an outside consultant to address and train its student-athletes regarding racial and cultural sensitivities.
“If the results for Penn Hills are predictive, adults responsible for Connellsville sports will continue to deny wrongdoing; WPIAL will sweep aside more credible accusations; perpetrators will demean others without remediation,” the letter reads.
The letter goes on to demand that officials from PIAA and WPIAL “strengthen and enforce your policies” and “provide implicit bias training and anti-racism training to all league personnel and officials.” It then suggests the associations “document all reports of racial intolerance and other abuses.”
It also asks everyone across Western Pennsylvania “to actively stand against racial intolerance.”
“If you see something, say something. Keep the community informed. Report incidents to your school administration, WPIAL and PIAA. Support those who report discrimination,” reads the letter.
Read the entire letter here.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .