Elias West, a Black student who plays football for Layton High School in Layton, Utah was punished for saying the N-word during one of his games. The senior running back says a white student on the opposite team said it first, but the referee only ejected West from the game.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the incident occured during one of Layton High School’s football games in October. After being tackled by a group of players, West told the outlet one boy stayed behind and stood over him. “Stay down, you nigger,” West recalled the boy saying.
“Don’t fucking call me a nigger,” West replied, ready to defend himself. Moments later, he was ejected from the game by a referee who said he only heard West use the racial slur. “I was the one that got punished,” West told The Salt Lake Tribune. Since the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) has a zero tolerance policy, West was suspended for the next two games and forced to miss his last regular season game — where college recruiters would have an opportunity to see him play.
West’s mom, Lissa, is white. When her son was ejected from the game, she asked the referee why a Black student would say the N-word towards a white student if he wasn’t instigated. But the refs didn’t consider her concern. “So a white boy said the N-word, a Black boy defending himself said the same N-word, and yet only one was punished,” said Lissa West. She told the outlet that she watched as the other team “went home and celebrated a win that night” while her son “went home in tears wondering why he decided to stand up against racism.”
The UHSAA reportedly reviewed the incident and claimed that the white referee who ejected West reported hearing West say, “Shut the fuck up, you nigger.” Lissa West said she reached out to Davis School District administrators the same night the slur was used. And while the School District said they investigated the matter, they did not reverse West’s suspension or penalize the other player or team.
Lissa West has reassured her son that she believes he had the right to defend himself. “To punish the minority for telling someone not to use that racial slur against him is nonsense,” she said. “He hit his breaking point with this one,” she added, stating Elias has been called racial slurs in games before.
A month before this incident occurred, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report revealing that the Davis School District has routinely failed to respond appropriately to hundreds of harrassment claims by Black and Asian-American students.
Still, West said that football has taught him “a lot of life lessons.” “It’s always been the thing I can go to when things aren’t right. What I am taking away from this is to always stand up for myself and against racism, no matter the consequences,” he said.
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