Colts cheerleader forgives teen who called her by racial slur

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A week after a Russiaville high school student called an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader by a racial slur in a Snapchat post, the cheerleader has chosen to forgive him.

On Wednesday night, the cheerleader, Leanna E., tweeted out a photo of her and the 17-year-old Western High School student. The two had met in person at the Colts complex.

Leanna captioned the photo, “A week ago I was the victim of a racial slur that was shared around the world. Today, I chose forgiveness & feel stronger because of it.”

“To receive the apology and be able to formally and officially forgive him and talk and be able to relate on things and find common ground, it was really comforting and helpful for us,” Leanna went on in an interview Thursday with IndyStar. “I’m at peace with it.”

The racial slur

The incident began Dec. 14 when the teen and another student took a photo with Leanna and one of her fellow cheerleaders at an event at the Howard Country high school. The event was being held to celebrate the school’s participation in the Colts Leadership Challenge blood donation program.

When the student posted the photo to Snapchat, he captioned it, “Of course (other student’s name) put me next to the (racial slur).” The photo went viral and was shared over 1000 times.

The story got international and widespread attention, and the student later apologized on his Instagram account, though he later deleted it. His apology was not directed at Leanna personally.

While having a discussion with Western High School Principal Rick Davis, Leanna inquired as to how the student was doing.

“I just was concerned for how he was handling it, and (Davis) said he wasn’t handling it well,” she stated. “That broke my heart to know that.”

That is when Davis decided that perhaps a meeting between the two parties would be a good idea.

The meeting

When Leanna greeted the teen and his mother and put out her hand to shake, the boy surprised her with a hug and flowers.

“I extended my hand to shake, and he was like, ‘Come on, bring it in, bring it in.’ It was a good ice breaker,” she said. “He was pretty uncomfortable, which is understandable, but he got right to his apology. He said that he was a kid who made a mistake. He actually referred to himself as a dumb kid that messed up, and he said he was trying to be funny and wasn’t and that he made a mistake and he was sorry, very sorry for hurting me and others.”

According to Leanna his mother was very gracious as well.

“She was emotional and expressed her gratitude and her appreciation for me being so forgiving and me being willing to meet with them, and she immediately embraced me,” she stated. “She said he wasn’t raised that way, that it was peer influence. He grew up in a Christian home, and he was taught better.”

The student has been receiving physical threats at school, and there have been thousands of people discussing what happened online. Leanna says she isn’t sure that the offense is worth all the trouble he has been receiving.

“I hope that people look at themselves and step back and realize everybody makes mistakes; nobody’s perfect,” she said. “I feel like there is so much good in Indiana, and the heart of the state is pure and good. That’s what I feel like draws people in. I would hate to think that somebody would read that story of this one student who’s made one mistake and categorize everybody in the state as being the same way, and if so, that’s just stupid.”

The Trump effect

Leanna said she doesn’t think the student is racist. She was told that the student and his friends use this racial slur as a term of endearment.

While she doesn’t understand this way of thinking, she feels that some of this is thanks to the “Trump effect.”

“It has become acceptable, for some reason, to be racist or make racist comments, and I don’t really know why that is,” she stated.

“The leaders of the nation are making these mistakes, and it’s seeming OK. It’s not that surprising that these kids would make the same mistakes. That generation, that age group, they need a lot of help, a lot of guidance. They’ve grown up with phones and technology at their fingertips, and I don’t think they have the mental and physiological capacity to fully understand the precautions they should take with the internet and with the future.”