Tenn. authorities investigating use of racial slur during girls basketball game

STEM Preparatory Academy in Nashville is calling for officiating referee to be permanently suspended, and social media users want his name.

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The girls basketball team at STEM Preparatory Academy in Nashville walked off the court this week after an officiating referee reportedly called a 14-year-old player the N-word. 

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association is investigating the incident, which occurred on Wednesday night during the game against Smyrna High School. 

The girls’ basketball team at STEM Preparatory Academy in Nashville walked off the court this week after an officiating referee reportedly called a 14-year-old player the N-word. (Photo: AP)

According to The Nashville Post, multiple students and parents witnessed a white male referee aggressively approach the player and call the girl “a little n*gger.” The incident was reportedly caught on camera; a clip was shared on Twitter.

In the video, the incident occurs after a STEM player reacts to a hard foul.

STEM Prep’s founder and chief executive officer posted an open letter to the TSSAA Thursday addressing the previous night’s circumstances.

“This incredibly offensive, racist event underscores the institutional racism that exists within athletics, as well as within the TSSAA organization,” STEM Prep’s Dr. Kristin McGraner wrote. “As this is not the first incident of systemic racism within TSSAA, we call for a review of official screening and hiring practices, the code of conduct governing the behavior of all employees and contracted officials, and sustained Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training led by a qualified external party.”

“For our athletes to go to a school-sanctioned event and be dehumanized by an adult official is traumatizing,” she continued, “and our entire school community is in pain, particularly our Black and Brown students who experience systemic racism every day in this world. We demand better of TSSAA, and we demand they take extensive action to both correct the harm done and prevent an incident like this from ever occurring again.”

Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association officials said it is investigating the event and maintains it does have the authority to “suspend registration of an official who is guilty of unsportsmanlike or unethical conduct.” 

STEM Prep is calling for the referee to be permanently suspended, and social media users are demanding that the name of the official be released. 

The girls basketball team is being applauded for their on-the-court protest. 

One Tennessean wrote: “This story about a racist ref using the ‘N’ word towards a female player in Smyrna, TN is horrible, but @STEMPREP boys & girls walking out and taking forfeits was commendable. One thing @Kaepernick7 helped teach a generation is some things are more important than wins & losses.” 

The boys team at STEM Prep also refused to play in their game Wednesday. Both matches have been listed as forfeits by the school, but that designation could change after the conclusion of the investigation. 

According to two letters shared on social media, the investigation into the incident is ongoing, but the TSSAA has reportedly suspended two of the Black players and fined the school $500 after the mother of the offended player came on the floor. 

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