A Black high school lacrosse player and honors student says potential future college scholarships are on the line after enduring violent, racist taunts from opposing teams in Florida.
During a press conference last week, 17-year old, Luther Johnson V, who plays for Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, met with members of the media to discuss his suspension from playing both football and lacrosse during his senior year, a decision his lawyer is calling out as being racially motivated.
Johnson maintains he’s been banned from sports by the Florida High School Athletic Association because of how he reacted to racist taunts from players who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while playing a game where he was the only Black student on the field, Local 10 news reports. Johnson says racial slurs, including the n-word and death threats, were hurled at him from these students.
After returning from that suspension, Johnson played in another game against Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and received an additional unsportsmanlike call for “targeting.”
According to WVFN, Johnson’s attorney Rawsi Williams said two independent lacrosse coaches reviewed the game footage and disagree with the ban.
“Not one coach who reviewed that agreed to a year ban or even a few games,” Williams said. “They were saying these are in-game penalties.”
The Florida High School Athletic Association banned Johnson from high school sports for the full football season and the first half of the upcoming lacrosse season, a decision Johnson contends could cost him a college scholarship.
“That’s my future, my college future, for playing sports if I want to play sports,” Johnson told reporters.
His high school coach, David Dunn, agrees.
“Him not being able to play his senior year, that would be devastating to him and his family,” Dunn said.
Johnson’s attorney announced last Friday that the family is filing a lawsuit in civil court against the Florida High School Athletic Association, alleging their decision was unfair and racially motivated.
“Luther was playing against Marjory Stoneman Douglas [High School]. He is not only the only African American kid on his team. There, he was the only Black kid in the whole game,” Williams said.
Johnson and his attorney said the other players from Stoneman Douglas were using racist language and making death threats in the moments leading up to the plays in question.
The suit seeks to have Johnson’s season-long football and half-season-long lacrosse ban lifted.
Johnson’s legal team has launched a social media campaign to support lifting the ban using the hashtags #HelpUsFightForLJV and #LetHimPlay and are calling on supporters to contact state leaders and the FHSAA with calls on his behalf.
They are requesting immediate reinstatement of Luther Johnson to play all sports without restriction, or that he be allowed to play all football games this season while missing only some lacrosse games next spring; and, an investigation of the racially discriminatory treatment at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas game.
Williams is also seeking a court hearing for an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order against FHSAA’s ban on Thursday.
“If that order is granted, our motion is granted, that means he gets to go out there and play,” Williams told WSVN. “Those items are necessary to stop the board’s actions in its tracks so that Luther can play while the lawsuit is determined.”
Luther Johnson, the player’s father, told reporters his son maintains a 4.0 GPA and had several letters of interest from Ivy-League schools. But now, he concerned that the suspension could threaten his son’s college prospects.
“Playing sports is one love that I have, and I just don’t want to stop over a decision that people make, and I can’t make,” the younger Johnson said. “I’m just ready to get back on that field.”
— Columbus High School (@ColumbusHS_Mia) June 20, 2018