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Ann Arbor Pioneer cancels football game over alleged use of racial slurs

Posted at 11:17 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 23:17:25-04

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — A high school football game in Ann Arbor was canceled in protest after the JV team says they were called racial slurs during a game Thursday night.

Ann Arbor Pioneer was set to play Bedford High School but canceled after they say multiple Bedford JV players directed racial slurs at them during a game on Thursday.

Pioneer Head Coach Jimmy Williams said he held a meeting with the team this afternoon and told his players they shouldn't be subject to this type of harassment. Instead, the team would forfeit the game.

Just hours before kickoff, the gates were closed and the lights were off.

Coach Williams, a former Detroit Lion, is in his first year as Pioneer's head coach. He said for half of the JV game, their players were subject to being called the 'N' word multiple times without referee intervention. He decided to cancel the varsity game as the investigation continues.

“It's just sad, it’s disappointing. That's all I can say. It’s disappointing,” said Bedford fan and team statistician Glenn Green, who showed up for the game.

Bedford fans showing up for the game were quickly told it was canceled, with school staff staying in the parking lot to let people know. They say they’re currently looking into the claims and are investigating.

“If that really happened it’s unfortunate, It’s really unfortunate because it paints the whole community as something that they’re not,” Green said.

Meanwhile, the Superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools Jeanice Swift says they reached out to Bedford and also to the MHSAA and the Assignor of Officials, adding in a statement “...we fully and unequivocally support the position of our Coach to demand a full accounting of the incident from Thursday night and to take action to avoid placing our AAPS athletes in a position to potentially be treated in the same manner.”

“It’s pretty sad," Green said. "It’s not representative of the community at large.”

The MHSAA confirmed the game has been forfeited. The superintendents from both schools say the investigation into exactly what happened during the JV game is ongoing.

The superintendent of Bedford Public Schools issued the following statement:

As Superintendent of Bedford Public Schools, I take any allegations of racial or any other type of intimidation very seriously. During last evening’s JV football game between Bedford High School and Ann Arbor Pioneer, an allegation was made that a BHS player made a racial comment toward an Ann Arbor player.

This allegation was immediately investigated based on the information provided by Ann Arbor Pioneer Athletic Administration. BHS has requested additional information regarding the incident and has yet to receive any written statements or investigation notes with further details. BHS Athletic Director Mark German spoke with game officials after the contest and was told that the alleged incident was not heard by the officiating team and that it was reported to them by the Pioneer coaching staff. It is our hope that we can work with Ann Arbor Pioneer Administration to complete a comprehensive investigation using factual information to develop a full understanding of any alleged inappropriate behaviors.

I have been inundated this evening with social media posts and media reports that provide inaccurate information regarding last evening’s game. Contrary to statements made that the game included multiple BHS player ejections, I can confirm that no players were ejected from either team.

This evening’s Varsity competition between BHS and AA Pioneer involved students that were preparing for tonight’s game while the JV Game was taking place. The forfeiture is unfortunate for those scheduled to play this evening and I would hope that in the future, a more aligned investigation can take place where facts are shared to ensure that a professional and complete investigation can ensue. It is disappointing to learn that tonight’s contest was canceled to make a statement regarding the treatment of Pioneer athletes by all teams and not specifically associated with yesterday’s alleged incident. I am confident that if timely and appropriate communication had taken place, our teams could have participated in a game that would allow for a strong showing of sportsmanship. The one thing that is clear is that there is no place in high school athletics, or any other setting, for the type of behavior being alleged.
Carl Shultz, Ph.D. Superintendent Bedford Public Schools