CCSD Report: Football players did not see post-game celebrations as racist

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Academic High School football players told school officials that they did not see their post-game celebrations involving watermelons as racist, according to a newly released report.

On Monday night, Charleston County School District officials released an investigative report by District Associate Superintendent Lou Martin which was given to Dr. Nancy McGinley prior to the firing of Head Football Coach Bud Walpole who was reinstated two days later.

The report, dated Oct. 16, states that school officials met with 29 members of the Academic Magnet football team at 8:30 a.m. with the players brought into the lecture hall and interviewed separately regarding reported post-game celebrations involving the smashing of watermelons which were given faces and names.

According to the report, the player interviews were completed at 2:45 p.m., then an assistant coach and Walpole were interviewed.

In the report's findings of player interviews, it states the watermelon "was intended to be a 'tradition' to represent team unity by smashing the watermelon after a victory and each player consumed some of the watermelon."

The report states the assistant coach acknowledged that he was aware of the watermelon and did not think it offensive "as he viewed it in the context of a team tradition."

According to the findings in the report, the assistant coach said he was unaware of any markings on the watermelon and "expressed remorse" for not being more alert or aware of the "ramifications of the watermelon and its connotations."

The report also states Walpole told officials that he knew of the "smashing" but was "too occupied with responsibilities to pay close attention." Officials state in the report that Walpole had been "very defensive until the final few minutes of the interview."

According to the report, Walpole acknowledged that he should have been more aware and taken an active intervention in the process.

The report states Walpole admonished players for smashing the watermelon in the quad but not any other activity; officials say one of the watermelons was smashed in the quad at the high school which drew the attention of staff at the school.

In a section of the report titled "Observations," officials said most of the football team did not associate any of the watermelon celebrations with "any negative connotation toward any race."

One observation stated that "Some of the seniors expressed an attitude of if 'someone is offended by the watermelon that is their problem and not ours.'"

Officials detailed several recommendations in the report with one of them being to suspend the remaining games.

The other recommendations were to have all players required to attend a "Dignity and Respect" series of seminars and participate in an activity tied to a cultural community event. The report also recommended issuing a letter of reprimand and removing coaches from their position.

Dr. McGinley resigned last week following the controversy and cited the incident in her address to principals and senior school leaders.

"You may have handled it differently," McGinley said."At this point, I cannot erase the impact that this incident has had on our district and community, and for that I am truly sorry."

Last Thursday, the CCSD Board of Trustees voted 8-1 to accept McGinley's resignation.

McGinley will stay on as a district employee in a consultant role through June 30, 2015.

To read the complete report, click here.

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