PEARL RIVER, NY (CBS New York) – There are allegations of racist taunts at a basketball game at Pearl River High School in Rockland County.
Administrators say Nyack’s players were mocked during Wednesday’s game.
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A sign in Pearl River calls it “The City of Friendly People,” but on Wednesday at Pearl River High School there was not a warm welcome to visit Nyack.
The Pearl River superintendent said some of his students were making “monkey noises” as Nyack’s black players took free throws. It happened at least three times – an attempt to rattle the opposition with sounds widely seen as racist.
“It’s hard because when you hear those sounds, you know the purpose of those sounds, you know it’s meant — it’s not meant to be enjoyable,” college basketball coach Ethan Smith said. of Nyack.
“I was in the game, I was focused, but obviously I hear things coming to my ears because I heard the background noise. I was very surprised by that. I was very shocked “said Nyack player Kameron Kukielczak.
“It was surreal. I didn’t think it was 100% true, what I was hearing, because I was actually shocked,” Smith said.
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The shock is compounded by news on Friday that Pearl River was already investigating complaints of similar behavior by ugly students days earlier.
“To see this happen to our boys, in the same gymnasium, with their administration present is something very alarming to me,” Nyack sporting director Joe Sigillo said.
“Our high school administration responded to this incident by entering the student body and speaking directly to the students,” Pearl River Superintendent Marco Pochintesta said.
Pochintesta says his schools will step up their efforts to foster tolerance and respect.
“We absolutely find this behavior deeply disturbing, harmful to all of us and racist,” he said.
The Head of Nyack School says his district wants to get involved and help.
“The noises that have been made, the racism that exists in our society, is something that we really seek to dismantle every time,” Nyack Superintendent Eudes Budhai said.
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“I believe this is definitely a teaching moment that we can all use to learn and glean and grow,” said Nyack’s religious leader, Pastor Carl Washington.
“In fact, create a change so that we create that tolerance and understanding for each other that can really bring our communities together,” said Nyack Mayor Donald Hammond.
It certainly united Nyack with a huge turnout of support in Friday’s basketball game against Clarkstown North, a show of pride for their players for handling an ugly episode with grace.
“Nyack is and always has been an example of fairness, respect and positive sportsmanship,” one person told the crowd.
When the players entered the pitch, they were united in their outrage.
“It brings us closer, but I’m not going to sit back and let it happen,” said Nyack player Harrison Jordan, who is white. “It was aimed at my team-mates, who are my family, and I’m not going to let them be treated any differently than I would be treated, so I’m going to support them and stick with them and I’m going to have them backing down through anything.
Nyack alum Tre Beamon told CBS2’s Dick Brennan that the taunts were nothing new.
“It’s been going on for years,” he said.
He says he endured them when he played in Pearl River ten years ago and he can’t believe the latest incident.
“I don’t know if it’s frustration or just anger to be honest with you because it should never happen in the first place,” Beamon said.
Nyack residents say this could be a teachable moment.
“It’s super frustrating, but you see it all over the world, so you just have to do your part and try to make the world a better place,” Nyack alum Kayyah Simpson said.
Meanwhile, Pearl River says it is investigating this ugly fan behavior with an eye on possible discipline.
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CBS2’s Tony Aiello contributed to this report. Editor’s note: This story was first published on February 11.