State leader calling for football team's suspension for post-game celebrations

State leader, group calling for football team's suspension for watermelon celebrations

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - A state leader is calling on the school district to suspend the entire Academic Magnet High School football team for the season.

Rep. Seth Whipper stood alongside members of the Bonds-Wilson Alumni Association, the National Action Network, and the Charleston NAACP Thursday, in a press conference just outside the Charleston County School District Office on 75 Calhoun Street.

The group announced they will take their case before the school board, in a meeting Monday, after the re-instatement of Academic Magnet High School football Coach Bud Walpole.

Whipper said all of Academic Magnet's football staff should be put on leave of absence, while District officials take a second look at the facts.  He also called for the suspension of the Academic Magnet football season.

"This is a serious matter," Whipper said. "I can not see how we minimize the fact that an adult person, who is more than 50-years-old could forget what has happened in this country."

Walpole was fired as the Raptor's head coach, following a district investigation of his team's post-game victory celebrations.  The routine included drawing a face on a watermelon, naming it, then smashing it on the ground, after making what some described as "ape-like" noises.

Watermelons used in the celebration were named Bonds-Wilson, and Junior.

Academic Magnet High School sits on the Bonds-Wilson campus, but in the 1940's, it was home to Bonds-Wilson High School, which served as an all black school during segregation.

The campus is also named after two African American educators, J.R. Bonds and John Wilson.

Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said the coach apologized over the phone Wednesday, saying he never intended to commit an act that was racially insensitive.

He was reinstated as Academic Magnet's head football coach Wednesday.

In a meeting with District Superintendent Nancy McGinley, Walpole submitted a letter of commitment, agreeing to teach students to be sensitive to the feelings of others, along with agreeing to attend diversity courses initiated by the school district.

For Whipper, and some Bonds-Wilson alumni, that's not enough.

"I'm saying it should not happen on the part of any people," Whipper said."I don't think black people should do it, I don't think white people should do it, Native Americans, no one should do it."

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