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Fury Erupts Over Racially-Charged Tweets After Westchester High School Basketball Game

Bad Blood Between Mahopac And Mount Vernon Spills Over To Social Media
(credit: Mount Vernon Mayor's Office)

(credit: Mount Vernon Mayor’s Office)

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MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Some high school students in Westchester County were under fire Wednesday evening, after their basketball team lost a close game.

As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported, Mahopac High School fell to Mount Vernon High School in the semifinals, and after the game, some students took to social media after the game, and many people said what they posted online was racist.

Leaders from both schools have since spoken out on the Twitter rant gone wrong. Some of the Twitter accounts involved in the controversy have gone private, but the office of Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest D. Davis provided some of the tweets – and said some of them were composed by students.

“That’s why you shouldn’t let monkeys out of their cages #MtVernonZoo,” read a tweet by Ryan Sarfaty.

The Class AA semi-finals game happened Thursday night at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. Top-seeded Mount Vernon won 43-40.

Mount Vernon’s team is made up mostly of black players.

After losing, one Mahopac fan took to Twitter, posting a picture of a confederate flag. There are even claims someone pulled out an actual flag at the game.

Confederate flag tweet

Confederate flag tweet

In another tweet, apparently poking fun at the single-parent epidemic in the black community, another student identified on Twitter as MikeHeinzinger remarked, “tough loss boys, but at least we can talk to our dads about it.”

City of Mount Vernon Interim Schools Supt. Judith Johnson was furious about the tweets.

“We cannot hide from racism,” Johnson said. “We have to confront it, we have to acknowledge it, and we have to deal with it.”

Johnson said she sent copies of the tweets to the state education commissioner.

“It just reminded us once again that racial intolerance is still on the agenda,” Johnson said. “It’s often the elephant in the room.”

She said some Mount Vernon players were even called racial slurs by opposing players, but took the high road afterward.

“I call it grace under fire,” Johnson said. “They’re focused on trying to win their next game. Their goal is to get to the finals and win the state championship. But they were hurt.”

It was clear that tension was high at the game. Some tweets seemed to indicate some Mount Vernon fans were trash-talking.

Mahopac students who spoke to CBS 2 denounced the comments.

“It’s disgraceful,” said student Laura Peniowich. “It’s embarrassing that people are saying racial slurs on Twitter. It’s embarrassing just to go to the school.”

Mahopac’s coach, who is black, tweeted about the comments himself. He said, “It’s great to cheer for your school but does not give u the right to say such hateful things. Makes it hard to coach there. #disappointed.”

Mayor Davis, who fought for civil rights himself, was troubled.

“We want to send a message that this is not the way, approach that an organized society; civilized society, should take,” he said.

Because some of the Mahopac players have been accused of using racial slurs, the Mount Vernon superintendent has called for sanctions to be handed down. She was set to attend a meeting with principals and coaches from both schools, and members from the state Department of Education.

Mahopac Central School District Supt. Thomas Manko said the comments and tweets do not reflect the school, and that the students involved will indeed be disciplined.

He said while he is disgusted, no players were involved with the tweets.

“It’s a sad day when you can’t have a basketball game between two wonderful teams, and there isn’t some Twitter chatter after the game that is unacceptable to the district,” Manko said.

CBS 2 reached out to some of the Twitter users who posted some of the comments, but has not heard back.

Meanwhile, Mount Vernon High School advanced in the playoffs Wednesday, winning the AA state regional semifinal 66-48 against Newburgh Free Academy.

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