Nov 19, 2021 - Sports
TSSAA investigates slur allegation
The leader of Nashville charter school STEM Preparatory Academy sent a letter saying the incident was a vivid illustration of "institutional racism" embedded in athletics and the TSSAA itself.
A letter from STEM Prep CEO Kristin McGraner to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. Image courtesy of STEM Prep

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association is investigating an allegation that a referee used the N-word against a 14-year-old player during a girls basketball game Wednesday night at Smyrna High School.

  • The leader of Nashville charter school STEM Preparatory Academy sent a letter saying the incident was a vivid illustration of "institutional racism" embedded in athletics and the TSSAA itself.

What happened: A girls basketball game between STEM Prep and Smyrna ended abruptly after the alleged incident.

  • "Multiple students and parents witnessed" the referee use the racial slur against a STEM Prep player, according to a statement from the school.

What they're saying: STEM Prep CEO Kristin McGraner called on TSSAA to permanently suspend the referee, review its hiring practices, and institute diversity training for all employees.

  • "For our athletes to go to a school-sanctioned event and be dehumanized by an adult official is traumatizing, and our entire school community is in pain, particularly our Black and Brown students who experience systemic racism every day in this world," McGraner said in a statement.

The other side: TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress tells Axios the organization had statements from witnesses who contradicted each other.

  • At least one person saidĀ an official used the slur, others said it was another player, and others said it wasn't used at all, according to Childress. The investigation is ongoing.
  • "We are trying to get the truth," Childress says.

Meanwhile: The Daily News Journal reports TSSAA sent three letters Thursday reprimanding STEM Prep for behavior during the game.

  • One letter issued a $500 fine for the coach forfeiting the game and pulling the players off the court, and also included a $250 fine for unruly fan behavior.
  • The other letters concerned STEM Prep players ejected from the game, which a spokesperson for STEM Prep says happened during the interaction at the heart of the investigation.

The latest: Rutherford County Schools issued a statement Thursday afternoon pledging to cooperate with the investigation.

  • The district is sharing game video and making witnesses available for interviews, according to the statement.
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