School district superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley responded to questions from parents and the media on why officials elected to fire Academic Magnet’s football coach after learning of a post-game celebratory ritual.
Head coach Bud Walpole was fired Monday. McGinley clarified the situation Tuesday, saying Walpole was removed from all athletic programs. He was also the coach of the girls basketball team.
Early information about the scandal only showed the students were breaking open watermelons and eating them after victories. McGinley said reports from people at other schools suggested they were making “animalistic or monkey-like chants” after the games.
Further, the students also drew a face on each watermelon and named them, according to McGinley. She said the investigation revealed the students also named the watermelons Junior and Bonds Wilson.
Bonds Wilson is the name of the formerly predominantly-black school in North Charleston where Academic Magnet now sits.
McGinley said the complaint was lodged on Oct. 13 through a board member who was concerned about racial stereotypes. As a result, the school’s principal was called and an investigation began.
However, McGinley said school officials found no culture of racism and called it an “innocent ritual.” That’s when school board member Michael Miller included complaints of the chants.
“The whole thing began when the football team started celebrating victories by smashing a watermelon and cheering in a circle to celebrate a hard-fought win,” the student said in an email. “This was seen by a [Charleston County School District] official who deemed the act to be racist.”
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