Mahopac students suspended for racial slurs after Mt. Vernon game

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The Mahopac school district has suspended three students and expects to suspend several others for racist tweets that attacked Mount Vernon boys basketball players and their fans after Mahopac’s 43-40 loss to Mount Vernon in the Feb. 27 Class AA Section 1 semifinal at Westchester County Center.

Mount Vernon Superintendent of Schools Judith Johnson called for Mahopac’s varsity team to be suspended from play for one year. While condemning the remarks, Mahopac schools Superintendent Thomas Manko characterized Johnson’s request as “excessive.”

Johnson, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday night, advocated the year suspension in a letter Tuesday to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Education Commissioner John King.

In it, Johnson alleges Mount Vernon players were “verbally attacked and subjected to racial taunts of an abhorrent nature” by both Mahopac players and spectators.

Video: Scuffle in the stands after Mount Vernon-Mahopac game

Mount Vernon coach and athletic director Bob Cimmino said after his squad’s Wednesday night Class AA state regional semifinal win over Newburgh that Mahopac players directed racist remarks at his players throughout their game.

“It’s a disgusting part of sports,” Cimmino said.

Previous coverage: Student-athletes’ misuse of Twitter can have lasting consequences.

Mahopac coach Kevin Downes, who is African-American, referred questions to Manko, who said Mahopac had conducted interviews but has been unable to confirm its players said anything racist.

“We’re still investigating. We need evidence. We take the allegation very seriously,” Manko said.

Investigations also continue into tweets Manko characterized as “sad and embarrassing” and as coming from students not on the team.

One characterizes Mount Vernon residents as “monkeys”; others refer to absent Mount Vernon fathers.

One reads, “One of the few biological Mount Vernon fathers just tried to sell me crack outside the county center.”

Of the students who wrote the tweets, Manko said, “They chose poorly, horribly. To use racial slurs or stereotypes, there’s no room for that in our worldview.”

He wouldn’t specify the duration of the suspensions but said, typically, suspensions run one to five days.

Manko said all involved would receive in-school “sensitivity training.” He also said the matter would be addressed with the entire student body.

But while noting he’d spoken several times to Johnson and had apologized, Manko called for Johnson to investigate Mount Vernon fan behavior. He said County Center officials were immediately notified after a fan struck a Mahopac cheerleader on the head after the game. He said during the game a fan threatened to pull the same cheerleader’s hair. The cheerleader was not injured, he said, adding a “racial comment” had also been directed at cheerleaders and that Mahopac players heard, “White boys can’t play basketball.”

Manko, who didn’t attend the game, said two adults “scuffled” in the stands but he was unaware of Mahopac fans assaulting Mount Vernon fans outside the County Center — an assertion Johnson made, while calling for a police investigation.

Characterizing Mahopac’s and Mount Vernon’s past games as a “healthy, competitive rivalry — what high school athletics is all about,” Manko said Mahopac wanted the coaches and at least some members of both teams to sit down for lunch to get to know one another better.

But Cimmino rejected that idea.

“I’m not interested in that at all,” he said. “These might be criminal acts. If someone does something to me, I’m not interested in sitting down and singing religious songs with them.”

Twitter @HaggertyNancy

Mahopac students suspended for racial slurs after Mt. Vernon game.

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