OH FATHER PROPOSES "JOSE'S LAW" TO STOP RACIST CHANTING IN HIGH SCHOOLS
HAMILTON, OH - Shawn Denholm wasn't looking for a fight when his son Logan joined the Hamilton High School Boys Soccer Team. Like most other fathers of high school athletes, it was assumed that watching his son play at local games would mostly be about cheering, and calmly chatting with other parents.
That's the way it was supposed to be. But, there's a specific factor associated with his son's Hamilton High School soccer team. It happens to be comprised of diverse members of the community, with the majority being Latino players.
If this was another time in a different era, this type of roster might not have been a issue. But, this is 2016. It is the year of Donald Trump and his overly zealous, often hate-filled, anti-Latino chanting, white nationalist supporters.
According to Denholm, during these past few years he's witnessed some very extreme ethnic taunting being directed at the Latino players of his son's team.
In an audio interview with Mexican American News, Denholm stated, "We've been dealing with this for years. It's just not an isolated incident this year.. They would be on the field and (opposing white team) players would call them names like 'beaner', 'wetbacks', 'go back to Mexico', push them, and the kids would complain." When asked if this has been happening at only one or two schools, Denholm emphasized, "Oh, it happens at a lot of high schools." Yet, for as troubling as these so-called "racist" behaviours are coming from the teenage players of an opposing team will be; what's even more disturbing are the actions or rather lack of actions being taken by the supervising adults witnessing this degenerate behaviour seen at the games. It appears that Southwestern OH has an issue of racist behaviours being allowed at some high school games. Denholm is determined to have this end.
A few weeks ago, Hamilton High School's boys soccer team had an away game at Wade Field in Springboro, OH. During the course of this match, parents from Hamilton H.S. were becoming increasingly upset about the officiating which they felt to be grossly uneven with many wrongful one-sided calls going against the Latino players only. One of the parents interviewed about this issue is Jose Cruz, a Mexican immigrant and father of Brian, Hamilton's team goalie. "The fouls are always against Hamilton only. The referees do very bad work and need to call things equal. This happens when it's mostly a white team only." said Cruz. In correspondence with us, Denholm has stated that recently almost "every game, every opposing team, every set of referees, go above and beyond to belittle and cheat them of a fair game."
With specific regard to the game in Springboro, Denholm furthered this ill-officiating claim stating, "It is obvious from the numerous bad calls against us and the non calls for the other team that our boys are playing against the referees, as well as the Springboro Boys Soccer team. Witnesses as well as stats can prove this." Undoubtedly, such statements coming from an opposing team can be seen as merely the rantings of an overly sensitive parent; especially when it comes from the side that lost. In this case, Hamilton did lose to Springboro. However, there are some additional fact about this specific game which do tend to make the more decent amongst us flinch. They also create the likelihood of more serious public notice. Aside from these two parents, there are some additional witnesses who not only confirm the complaints of bad officiating but attest to something much worse. Strong anti-Mexican hatred was allowed to prevail this entire evening.
Southwestern Ohio Has A Dual Problem Of Allowing And Denying Racism As Major Issue In Some Communities
Springboro, OH is an affluent suburb of Cincinnati and Dayton which according to the latest census has a population that is 92.1% white and 1.8% Hispanic. Conversely, Hamilton, OH has a population that's 84% white and 6.4% Hispanic. The median income in Hamilton is $35,365 per household, compared to Springboro's median income of $104,803. Although these cities share an overwhelming white majority population, it appears that the affluence and make-up of each city's high school soccer team does make a huge difference when they meet.
Six weeks ago on September the 1st, when Hamilton played Springboro the game ended with some allegations of ethnic bias coming from the referees. Many witnessed what some people may simply call "a night of very bad officiating" against Hamilton's Latino athletes. One of the Hamilton team supporters who frequents their games along with his wife and daughter is Kevin Chestnut. Chestnut, who is also a friend to Shawn Denholm, has asserted that he doesn't normally get involved with any issues. He prefers to just work and go home. However, being an avid soccer fan, he has taken the unusual stance in being willing to speak up about what he's been seeing on the field at Hamilton's away games for about "three or four years." In a recorded interview, he stated, "It's definately unfair.. kids shove one of our kids down to the ground and not be called. And then.. you know, when the shoes on the other foot... you get a yellow card. I mean what kinda..? It's horrible." He added, "I'm just tired of watching it. You know what. I'll probably not even go back to a soccer game. Cuz honestly, I hate watching it. I mean. It's that bad." When leaving the game, he stated hearing even Springboro's parents say the referees were "horrible."
Aside from the bad officiating, many in the Hamilton community have expressed a much more serious concern about the issues of racism and xenophobia they see being waged simultaneously against the Hamilton Latino players. During the game with Springboro, a repeated anti-Mexican mass chanting of "Build the wall!" broke out from the Springboro student body sitting in the stands. This was clearly heard by the Hamilton side of supporters in attendance. Being that there have been a number of ongoing complaints about racist behaviours coming from Springboro's student body for a number of years, this was a major concern for many of Hamilton's parents coming into their game with Springboro. To anyone not familiar with the Latino community in this time of Trump, be assured that this isn't viewed as a light little matter.
The father of Hamilton's team goalie, Jose Cruz, was asked about how bad the situation is to be living as a Latino in Ohio? He immediately erupted into a contemptuous groan stating, "Oh man!! (laughs) You can't believe it. It's bad!" After expressing some major parental concerns that his son is continually coming home feeling at times both dejected and angry after the away games, he stated, "My (son's) school is the only team where more than half is Latino. Other schools have one or two Latinos at most. So, we get it the worst." There have been many times after being subjected to the heaviest verbal abuse that his son has been wanting "to get into a fight and just hit someone." When queried on why his son hasn't fought thus far, Cruz confirmed that he's a Chicano. Thus, as a U.S. born citizen, he's wanting his son to feel as though he can overcome anything in his own country. He emphasizes the importance of taking the high road. He tells him to, "Just take it easy" and "not do anything bad." Keeping good grades and playing sports are seen as important. Yet, does any of this make it easier for a Latino teen feeling such abuse today?
While the charges of racism are commonly made when any of the Latino kids are called anti-Mexican names such as "beaners" and wetbacks"; it should also be noted that the ethnic taunting and abuse is not exclusive to the Latino athletes alone. Cruz commented that his son has also heard racist shouting against blacks while at another "white school"; and during the game with Springboro the calling of black African twin brothers on the Hamilton team, "Mother f*ck'in n*ggers!" During the investigation for this report, a person from the Springboro community who's wishing for annonymity was found. The claim was also made of once hearing the chanting "N*gger. N*gger. N*gger." many years ago during a game.
Another concerned parent of two boys on Hamilton's soccer team is Michelle Oliva. Two years ago, one of her sons who was taking abuse "all year long" finally had enough and slapped the face of another soccer player from Live Oak High School who was calling him a "beaner" to his face. In an extensive recorded interview, she too is expressing major concerns after the ethnic taunting heard at Springoboro game.
Internal Discord Erupts In The Stands Amongst Hamilton Community Members Assembled At Springboro Game
Like all the other parents spoken to, Oliva's criticism isn't merely about some bad officiating of game referees. What's most disconcerting to her is the apparent lack of concern being shown by the Hamilton school officials who are charged with overseeing the well-being of her boys. During the Springboro game, when a shoving of players, bad officiating, and the anti-Mexican chanting of "Build the wall!" was going on, she witnessed both J. Cruz and S. Denholm attempting to have adult supervision take better control of the game. Initially, Cruz was merely yelling at the referees to have the game called evenly. Then, in an effort to address multiple issues, including concerns of the team water bottles not having lids, Denholm attempted to speak with Hamilton's athletic director, Todd Grimm, also in the stands. According to all interviewed, Denholm began to calmly question Grimm. Yet, this questioning by a parent was apparently too much for his comfort. As, Grimm stood up, turned around, and according to Chestnut seated nearby, began "screaming and yelling" at Denholm in front of everyone assembled. On the question of whether racial chanting was heard, Chestnut said everyone could hear it including Grimm; because "It was loud. And, It was clear." Two of the questions which appear to have bothered Grimm most were when Denholm asked Grimm as they both watched the bad officiating, "Why aren't you recording these games?"; and then during the hateful chants, "Why are you not protecting these kids?" This line of questioning would eventually lead to Grimm having Denholm escorted out of the game by two Springoboro staff. The whole scenario of this game gone awry was so severe, that, the Springboro Police was eventually called-in to control the situation.
Hamilton High School, Hamilton School Board & Springboro School Board All Deny Problem Of Racial Chanting
Being extremely upset after the Springboro game, Oliva immediately called the Hamilton City School District Board of Education the next morning to file a complaint against Grimm. She felt he had embarrassed their school by yelling at multiple parents who were merely attempting to protect their kids. Oliva expressed a similar concern to Denholm's about the issue of caring. Her concern, however, was put in a more personal way. She said, "I feel like I'm failing them (the children). Because, I can't protect them.. Like, I try to prepare them for the real world. I mean.. they understand that racism is this discrimination.. I just hate that they have to go to a school function and.. deal with this.. I just feel like our school should protect them.." When speaking to the Hamilton school board Oliva was told that Hamilton's principal, John Wilhelm, would need to help with a complaint. She spoke with Wilhelm who stated that Grimm denied any incidents including the mass chanting ever took place. When calling and inquiring for this report, Wilhelm declined to speak with us. These incidents are something that all Hamilton school officials including the Hamilton school board are still inexplicably refusing to address.
Because the Hamilton school board refused to acknowledge an awareness of any issues occuring at the Springboro game, I contacted the Springboro Board of Education to see if a comment was available through them. In a statement released by Karen Derosa, their communications coordinator, they stated: "Springboro School officials were on site during the boys soccer game versus Hamilton.. Interviews were conducted with.. the site manager and coach, as well as a game official and students who attended the game. From the district's investigation, there is no evidence to support the allegations of racist comments, taunts or chanting from individual students or groups of students." Prior to this release, they didn't know we had a copy of Springboro's police report.
Jose's Law - Hamilton Commmunity Comes Together In A Petition To End Racism In High School Sports
What makes the situation of the Hamilton vs Springboro game quite peculiar isn't merely that the racist and xenophobic tauntings were occurring. Certainly, these type of ethnic assaults have been going on for many years. Likewise, is anyone really unaware of the increased anti-Mexican sentiments since Trump's presidential bid announcement? Rather, unlike other communities that have been addressing these issues when they occur; because the school officials from both of these Southwestern Ohio communities are refusing to acknowledge complaints by Hamilton's parents; they are effectively not addressing some serious problems that exist in their communities. Lack of action and silence are the same as creating a problem. Shawn Denholm knows this and has therefore initiated a personal campaign determined to address these repulsive issues once and for all. Initially, almost entirely alone, he launched a campaign of collecting signatures on a petition for the creation of what he's naming Jose's law. It is an effort to end ethnic tauntings and racial chantings in high school sports. To date, he has a few hundred signatures and is continuing to press for more. Eventually, they will be presented to the Ohio state legislation.