Jeremiah Chapman, the only Black athlete on his Iowa high school baseball team, was hurled numerous racist insults during an away game played on June 27.
The Charles City High School student says that the opposing team’s fans yelled out “You should have been George Floyd” and “Go back to the fields.” They also called him “Colin,” a reference to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who sparked controversy after he began kneeling during the National Anthem as a form of protest against police brutality.
At one point, the umpire asked Chapman if he wanted to pause the game. The high school junior declined because he didn’t want to let his teammates down.
“This is unacceptable,” Charles City Community School District said in an online statement. “As a place where we do what is best for all kids, We feel compelled to speak out and bring light to the situations that routinely happen to our kids. Our students must know we have their backs regardless of the circumstances and that we are fighting shoulder to shoulder with them to end oppression and to create the world that we know is possible. Our state and nation needs to know that our thoughts, words, and actions matter. We must do better. We must be better.”
Chapman was very excited to get back to playing baseball when high school sports resumed last month but the racist taunts during Saturday’s game have left him “angry and hurt.”
“I try my hardest to have everyone like me because that’s just my personality,” Chapman told CNN. “And it’s just hard seeing that no matter how hard I try, people can’t accept me because of my skin color.”
Though Chapman’s mother, Keisha Cunnings, wasn’t at the game she was heartbroken to hear what happened to her son. She doesn’t think the kids were being racist, however. Cunnings told CNN that she feels like they were trying to throw him off his game by taking it to race.
This is my boy! He is kind, sweet and talented.. if you can’t see beyond his skin color then sucks for you! And just and FYI...he has never worked on a field...his name is Jeremiah not Colin...he doesn’t care who you support politically..and he doesn’t remind you of George Floyd! pic.twitter.com/t5YCZKkS9c— Keisha M. Cunnings (@Mrz_Keisha) July 1, 2020
“I was angry because as a parent, this is the one fear I have for him,” Cunnings said. “The other part of me was kind of relieved that it did happen because it opened Jeremiah’s eyes to not be so naive and colorblind and ignorant to the fact that things like this still happen.”
Waverly-Shell Rock Community School District, where the incident occurred, has since apologized in a Facebook post for the behavior.
“Waverly-Shell Rock schools fully acknowledge that there was an incident at a recent baseball game that had one of our fans make extremely inappropriate, bigoted comments towards a Charles City player,” the post said. “This behavior is unacceptable. We make no excuses, because there are none. We do, however, wish to make a sincere apology to the Charles City school district and community and, in particular, the young man towards whom these comments were directed.”