‘I'm not antisemitic.’ Fired Yonkers varsity basketball coach believes he was scapegoated by district
The former head coach of the Roosevelt High School girls' varsity basketball coach wants his name cleared after being fired on Monday afternoon following a district investigation into allegations players on his team used racial slurs against players at a private Jewish school last week.
"It puts me in a bad light and makes people that don't know me think that I'm a monster or I don't like Jewish people, or I can't navigate in a multicultural world and that's a lie. A total lie," Brian Williams said in an exclusive interview with News 12 hours after he was dismissed from the team.
Brian Williams is in his third year at the helm of the team after retiring from a nearly 30-year career as a corrections officer.
He believes he's being scapegoated by the district so that someone is held responsible. On Monday, the district announced it had completed its initial investigation and found that a student from the Roosevelt High School girls' basketball team yelled "Free Palestine" at a player at the private Jewish institution, The Leffell School.
The initial probe included interviews with players, staff, and spectators as well as a review of the video and audio of the game. Williams was let go Monday afternoon.
"I had nothing to do with it. I just coach my team. I can't control what somebody says on the court and most coaches can't," he said.
Williams said he was told he was let go because of "poor management skills" and while district officials said they couldn't comment on personnel matters they did tell News 12, "The fact that the coach was separated from employment with the Yonkers Public School District – in no way even infer that he was participating or that he condoned or that he acquiesced to any form of antisemitism," Yonkers Interim Superintendent of Schools Luis Rodriguez said.
"I don't condone that at all. Players of mine and people that know me know I don't believe in that and never have, Williams said.
A spokesperson for the Yonkers City School district said in part, "These sentiments are not aligned with the Districts values. We do not and will not tolerate hate speech of any kind from our students."