Yonkers NAACP completes investigation into antisemitism at basketball game
The Yonkers NAACP Branch President Pastor Frank Coleman said he's conducted an investigation into allegations that players on the Roosevelt High School's varsity basketball team used antisemitic slurs during a game on Jan. 4 against The Leffell School, a Jewish school in Hartsdale.
"I wanted to make sure that at least there was someone trying to be honest about everything and that is really where I am coming from," said, Coleman.
Coleman, who is also a substitute teacher at Roosevelt High School, said he was asked by parents of Roosevelt players to conduct an investigation after a player from the Leffell School posted an op-ed in the student-run newspaper, accusing Roosevelt players of being overly aggressive, using antisemitic slurs, and shouting "Free Palestine."
"There was no aggression, trying to be ugly, they were just playing basketball," said Coleman.
The teams coach was fired following the incident.
The NAACP leader said he reviewed all available footage, interviewed players and team leadership and found no evidence antisemitic slurs were used, or that "Free Palestine" was said.
The Yonkers NAACP is calling for an apology from both school districts and the Yonkers mayor.
Yonkers Public Schools interim superintendent told News 12 following the incident, the district found in its initial investigation no antisemitic slurs were said, but did find that a player used antisemitic rhetoric by stating "Free Palestine."
In response to the NAACP investigation, the City of Yonkers said stands by its joint statement with Yonkers Public Schools that included an apology to students and the community of The Leffell School "for painful and offensive comments made to their women's basketball team."
The statement also said "Along with Mayor Spano's convening of religious, educational and civic leaders, Yonkers Public Schools also will administer further counseling and guided training sessions amongst the school community so to prevent this from happening again."
In response to the Yonkers NAACP statement the head of The Leffell School issued a statement:
“We are aware of a recent report casting doubt that antisemitic slurs were uttered during the January 4 girls' varsity basketball game between Roosevelt High School and The Leffell School.
This report was produced without any conversation with Leffell School players, coaches, or administrators. Its conclusions are contradictory not only to our students' accounts of their experience, but also to the findings of the Yonkers Public Schools' internal investigation into the matter, which determined definitively that antisemitic words and phrases were used at multiple points in the context of this game. This was noted in the January 8 joint statement released by Interim Superintendent Rodriguez and Mayor Spano, which remains prominently posted on the school district web site, and has been reaffirmed in numerous conversations with district and city officials in recent days.
As I stated in my letter to the Leffell School community on January 5, our goal is to address this issue in accordance with our school values, without seeking to embarrass, disparage, or shame anyone, and without passing judgment on any community on the basis of the words or actions of a small number of individuals. As educators, we strongly share the stated desire to bring communities together for moments of genuine learning. We are working constructively and privately with the district leadership to craft appropriate opportunities to do so.”
Coleman also said he would like to see both the Black and Jewish communities come together.
"Our communities have had history of fighting together for justice against the ugliness of the world. We should not be allowing this foolishness to get in our way," he said.
The Yonkers NAACP said in its statement, "Racism is wrong, Antisemitism is wrong. Islamophobia is wrong. Discrimination in all forms are wrong. But what is also wrong and worse is listlessly defaming another's character by publicly jumping to conclusion."