Political hate speech reaches the basketball court

Meanness is in in America these days. And, slowly, so is the utter lack of sportsmanship by fans at high school basketball games.

Over the weekend just outside of Boston, the students from Catholic Memorial High School taunted the fans of Newton North High School during a basketball game. The chants between the two started innocently enough and grew in intensity and vulgarity until Catholic Memorial went “nuclear” with the kids from the heavily-Jewish Newton North.

“You killed Jesus,” they chanted.

“They might not have meant it so personally, but you should think about things before you speak,” Nate Hollenberg, the senior captain of Newton North told the Boston Globe. “That hurts. They’re coming at my religion, at who I am, a big part of me. That’s just not right.”

Catholic Memorial administrators promised to update the curriculum at the school to teach more about Judaism.

“Can these students be blamed for getting a mixed message about what constitutes appropriate language and conduct when it comes to religion or other differences between us?” Globe columnist Joan Vennochi asks in her column today.

I’m not saying Trump instigated the “You killed Jesus” jeers. But the demeaning language Trump has been hurling at rivals in the name of presidential campaigning certainly sets a much-noted low bar of civility. And Trump has pointedly declined to denounce any of the poisonous rhetoric spewed by his supporters — which included a shout of “Go to Auschwitz,” directed at protesters, from one backer at a recent Kansas City rally.

The Republican presidential front-runner mocks critics of his profanity and insults as purveyors of political correctness. And he continues to make religion and ethnicity a dividing line between Americans. “Islam hates us,” he declares, as he pledges to keep Muslims and other undesirable immigrants out of this country.

That’s the message from the leading Republican contender for the White House. Of course, Trump’s not responsible for every word uttered by every backer. His supporters are adults, and he is not their principal. He can’t give them detention, but he can show disapproval. He chooses not to.

This is the second time this month that a basketball game has featured the rhetoric of the new politics.

In Indiana, fans of Andrean High School in Merrillville held a large image of Donald Trump and shouted “build a wall” during their team’s game with the heavily Hispanic Bishop Noll Institute. Both are parochial schools.

In a statement, the Diocese called it a “teachable moment.”

“This is a teachable moment for everyone about responsible speech, social media and sportsmanship. Perhaps (the incident) was an unfortunate byproduct of irresponsible speech in today’s political arena. (We) are proud of our students. We are proud of our diversity.

Our diversity is our strength. Bishop Noll will continue to educate our students in faith, social justice and to always respect all people, regardless of race, creed or socioeconomic status.”

As for the kids at Catholic Memorial, their team played the high school championship at TD Garden yesterday, but the students weren’t there. The school administrators banned them from attending.

Some students took to Twitter to ask Donald Trump to intervene.

Related: ‘Yellow Cards’ To Be Given To Unruly Fans In N.D. Region 1 (WDAY)

  • chris

    Whatever you think the words “politically correct” mean, if you take down the inhibitions society creates by deeming certain things unsayable, you will have incidents like this. Political correctness is a good thing if it means not shouting you killed jesus at people.

    • The key part of PC is the word “correct”.

      • PaulJ

        What about “yo momma” jokes; can the kids yell those at each other?

  • Two bigoted Trump supporters were thrown out of a Celtics game last week. (Ignore the click bait headline.)


  • Deborah

    Bigotry is older than this political campaign and predates the Trump candidacy. The bigotry that exists makes the Trump campaign possible. And bigotry at basketball games is sadly not new. 2011: the primarily white students at Eden Prairie high school started a chant of “Food Stamps. Food Stamps”, targeted at the African American players for the Hopkins basketball team. Bigotry is engrained in our culture and it distorts how we understand poverty and injustice and where danger really lies. these politics are, sadly, not new.

    • lindblomeagles

      Big thanks to Deborah and Bob for this comment. Deb is historically accurate about bigotry being engrained in America generally, and in high school games specifically. One of Trump’s endorsers, KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, ran for President (1988 and 1992), and before him, known segregationist George Wallace ran (1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976). Despite efforts to remind every American about America’s ugly past and how that past is still pervasive in the present, some of our citizens continue to deny bigotry’s existence while still reaching for hate first, superiority second, and cleansing third. As an announcer for high school football and boys’ and girls’ basketball, I am very proud the private school I serve adamantly reminds fans sports is just a game, sportsmanship is the central part of any game, and that sportsmanship is expected. I am, unfortunately, ashamed our nation still resists discussing bigotry, and follow the rantings of Americans who still can’t see that racial, religious, sexual, gender, and economic animus DEPRIVED America of the full potential it had. We did become a great nation in spite of slavery, Native genocide, GLBT secrecy, religious intolerance, and the exclusion of women, but we could have been the best civilization the world had ever seen if we accepted and included all of the people some still seek to keep out of America all those years ago.

  • Rich in Duluth

    But this is the obvious result of religious and/or political certainty and authoritarian thinking. If you are schooled in authoritarian thinking (truth comes from some higher authority), then taught, by that authority, that Jesus was killed by Jews, Muslims want to destroy us, “other” folks are less than us, the poor are moochers, might is right, Americans are exceptional, “life” starts at conception, “political correctness” abridges free speech, government is the problem….the list is long, then it’s so easy to demonize and stereotype those who don’t hold those sure beliefs. After all, you are certain that you’re right, therefore, other world views and opinions don’t matter.

    • DJ Wambeke

      Are you suggesting that the kids learned this attitude at their (religious) school?

      • Rich in Duluth

        Not necessarily. I’m suggesting that they learned authoritarian thinking and accept the “truth” given them by authorities, as truth, somewhere. Since I see this kind of thinking, often, in my religious friends and in political extremists, I assume it’s somehow linked to those things, but it really doesn’t matter where it comes from.

        Personally, I think it’s more important to learn how to think rather than what to think. For example, learning that evidence of a thing gets us closer to “truth” about that thing, than just believing what someone tells you.

        • DJ Wambeke

          Thanks for the clarification. There’s really nothing in your second paragraph that I disagree with!

          Although to be a contrarian here, is deference to authority always and everywhere bad? It has to be balanced with reason and evidence of course, but we all defer to authority on myriad subjects all the time. I don’t understand the intricacies of the mechanics of human health so I defer to the expertise of my doctors (who do understand it better) all the time. Their expertise serves as a stand-in for my inability/lack of time to fully dig into the details myself.

          In the case of these kids, they obviously were not listening to the authority of the school administrators (who were rightly and rapidly horrified and have taken disciplinary measures) nor were they listening to the religious authority of the Catholic Church, which explicitly teaches that every sinner (not Jews as a collective entity) is responsible for Christ’s death. One would presume they were learning this doctrine in their (ostensibly Catholic) school. If not before, they certainly are now!

  • chlost

    Perhaps the Catholic Memorial students have not been taught their history, as it was not that many years ago that being a Catholic in this society would have been considered heinous to many in power. I have had hope that the millennial generation could begin to break the cycle of hate and prejudice against “others”. Maybe not.
    Very sad and disturbing.

  • BReynolds33

    Best chant I ever heard at a high school event was at “The Tourney” a few years ago. St. Thomas Academy was playing Breck (I think), and the Breck kids all wore pink to the game (not a school color).

    About half way through the first period, they chanted, “We’ve got girls! We’ve got girls!”

    The best part of the entire thing was when channel 45 sent a reporter to figure out why the kids were wearing pink.

    Reporter: “We see you all wearing pink. Is this in support of breast cancer awareness or a fundraiser?”

    Random kid: “Nope. We have girls at our school and they don’t.”

  • Fred, Just Fred

    Joan Vennochi evidently hasn’t caught a leftist comedian or read the comments in any leftist internet site lately. Amy Schumer, Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman…take your pick, they all make Trump look like an amateur.

    • Postal Customer

      I must have missed their name on the ballot.

  • Dan

    There’s nothing overtly political about the chant, I’d guess the kids thought it was funny, a witty comeback. It was, of course, offensive. But that’s no reason to slander them all by calling them Trump supporters.

    Edit: referring of course only to the incident in Mass

  • Fred, Just Fred

    Bob, I gotta say, removing those Franken quotes is about the most cowardly thing I’ve seen anywhere. Everything I posted was a verifiable fact. If you find shining a light on Franken’s behavior objectionable, you have no basis from which to object to anything Trump says or does.

    • I am loathe to get into a big discussion on moderating policies but suffice it to say it’s difficult to keep people focused on the issue and not go off into “but YOUR guy is worse.” The moderation practices aren’t a debatable point.

      The issue in the here and now is the influence of political speech in the current environment and its dominance as a matter of civil discourse.

      If keeping you and others focused on the issue is the most cowardly thing you’ve ever seen, you don’t have it so bad.

      thanks for your input.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        Yeahbut, when you’re complaining about “hate speech” from “my guy”, “your guy is worse” is a perfectly legitimate response. The point is, “hate speech” comes from every direction but 90% of the lefties I’ve discussed this with absolutely refuse to admit it. And in the few instances they are forced to admit it, there is always the mitigating circumstance allowing it’s legitimacy.

        The issue at hand (Trump) is in the here and now, but the toxic atmosphere he is taking advantage of was paved by others, long ago. Donald Trump isn’t doing, or saying anything new. To ignore that fact is to de-legitimize the discussion before it gets started.

        • Jeff C.

          Hate speech comes from every direction? Really?

          “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.
          They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” –Donald Trump, presidential announcement speech, June 16, 2015

          In other words, Trumps is telling us to fear Mexican immigrants because most of them are people with “lots of problems.”

          Data on immigrants and crime are incomplete, but a range of studies show there is no evidence immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans. In fact, first-generation immigrants are predisposed to lower crime rates than native-born Americans. (The Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for restrictive immigration laws, has a detailed report showing the shortfalls of immigrant crime data.)

          Immigration and crime levels have had inverse trajectories since the 1990s: immigration has increased, while crime has decreased. Some experts say the influx of immigrants contributed to the decrease in crime rates, by increasing the denominator while not adding significantly to the numerator.

          (Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/07/08/donald-trumps-false-comments-connecting-mexican-immigrants-and-crime/)

          Show us something equivalent from Bernie or Hillary.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Thank you for making my point, perfectly.

          • Jeff C.

            Except that I haven’t refused to admit to a claim that you have no evidence to prove.

          • If anybody’s got a picture of fans in a high school carrying a picture of Al Franken while chanting a racist slur, I wouldn’t have any problem with you posting it.

            Thank you.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Wait, maybe I missed something. The kids were holding pictures of Trump in this instance?

          • Jeff C.

            Yup, you missed it. It happened a couple of weeks ago.

            So not *this* case, but does that matter? It happened.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            You missed the question “The kids were holding pictures of Trump in this instance?

            Bob has very clearly stated we must limit the discussion to the here and now. We cannot discuss things that happened in the past, the people that did them or the reasons why. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

          • There are two incidents here.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            So, sometimes it’s OK to enlarge the focus? I’m just trying to find the guide posts here.

          • We get it Fred. Move along, now.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            “Howard, a communications major from Indiana University who now teaches volleyball at a local high school, said this was not been the first time that inappropriate chants have been directed at Bishop Noll.

            “It’s always been an issue. Everybody notices it. No one has really said anything,” she said.”

        • X.A. Smith

          True. This wave goes back to Lee Atwater.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Lee Atwater directed one of the kindest, most civil campaigns in American history. What is so wrong with you that you’d pick on him, of all people?

          • According to Jon Meacham, President Bush felt bad about the ugliness of that campaign but felt it was for a worthy end.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            I’m talking about Reagan’s campaign.

          • While he was an adviser to Reagan, I believe Atwater managed only President Bush’s campaign. I think William Casey, who got the CIA gig, managed Reagan. And wasn’t Lynn Nofzinger in there somewhere?

          • X.A. Smith

            Ask Willie Horton.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Take Horton up with Gore.

  • rosswilliams

    The hysteria continues. Let me suggest that it is the media, not Donald Trump, that is most responsible for this kind of thing.

    • Jeff C.

      I’ll bite. How so?

    • X.A. Smith

      Yeah, they (corporate media) seem to cover him more than any other candidate, by a long shot, going back several months. Hard to say which is more to blame, especially due to his cozy relationships in media, and ratings leverage.

  • RSH

    Our society thinks a night out at the musical, The Book of Mormon, is hilarious. And then we wonder why individuals such as these students acted the way that they did.

  • Khatti

    Does anyone other than me see a South Park episode here?