On June 27th, the Charles City Comet baseball team was bused down to Waverly for a double-header. This is where an incident occurred that the Charles City school district later acknowledged in a statement to the community:
“During a recent away athletic contest one of our African-Amercian players endured several bigoted comments yelled from the crowd. This included, “Get back to the fields!” and “You’re only here because of George Floyd.” Sadly, this has been a pattern of behavior that our students of color have had to endure in many different places and contexts and is part of their daily experience.”
This player was 17-year-old Jeremiah Chapman and he is a center-fielder for the Charles City Comet baseball team.
Superintendent Mike Fisher says one of Charles City’s goals is ‘equity and social justice’ and that they will do this by continuing to lean into the tough conversations.
Waverly’s administration ended up responding to the situation:
“This behavior is unacceptable. We make no excuses, because there are none. We do, however, wish to make a sincere apology to the Charles City school district and community and, in particular, the young man towards whom these comments were directed.
We can’t undo what’s been done. But we are using this as a learning experience for the responsible party and, we hope, for many others in our schools and communities.”
Then the story got bigger and wider and was picked up by most state publications like the Des Moines Register, the Courier, and many television stations in the area. CNN even highlighted the story and interviewed Chapman about how the taunting affected him:
His mother Keisha Cunnings says even before the incident Chapman disliked being African American.
Cunnings says during the game her son received comments comparing him to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Cunnings wasn’t at the game herself, but can’t understand why nobody around would speak up in defense of her child.
Cunnings says she doesn’t think the fans are racist, but what they said definitely was.
A waterfall of support popped up around the state and country for Chapman. At the last Comet home game shirts with his name sprinkled the crowd.
Current Houston Texans Running Back and former UNI Panther David Johnson saw the story on Twitter and said:
— David Johnson (@DavidJohnson31) July 4, 2020
And a baseball player, Chicago Cub’s outfielder and 2nd baseman Ian Happ responded too:
— Ian Happ (@ihapp_1) July 5, 2020
During the holiday weekend, the Northeast Iowa Conference (NEIC); the conference that houses both Charles City and Waverly, came out with their own statement:
“We will not tolerate acts of racism, bigotry, or hate from participants, employees, or spectators at our events.”
It went on:
“This summer we are aware of acts of hate and racism directed at a Storm Lake Schools’ softball player, and here in our own conference against a Charles City Schools’ baseball player. We are disgusted knowing any Iowa student-athlete is the target of these attacks. We believe racism and hate are learned, and can be unlearned. We recognize our school systems play a role in maintaining systemic bias and oppression. We embrace the challenge to use our roles as leaders to become better.”