Game comments enrage community

A firestorm of controversy is swirling following a regular season basketball game between Knox Central High School and Corbin High School on Friday night.

Accounts of alleged racial slurs during the game, as well as a video posted online following the game, show a Corbin basketball player using comments many believe to be racially-charged.

In the video, the player is shown saying “Sometimes you’ve just gotta put the monkey back in its cage.”

A statement was released Saturday afternoon from Hannah Goins, Public Relations Coordinator with Corbin Independent Schools. The release stated “The administration of Corbin High School is aware of the video involving a Corbin basketball player which was released last night. After review, this is an internal basketball issue that will be dealt with by the Corbin High School basketball staff. The administration has every confidence that this will be handled in an appropriate manner.”

In comments to The Mountain Advocate, Frank Shelton, Director of District Communications and System Governance, said “The Knox County Public Schools trust that the Corbin Independent system will deal with this in an appropriate manner.   Whether it is in the classroom, on the court, or away from school, the Knox County Public Schools have a zero-tolerance policy for our students regarding the type of behavior that has been recorded and spread via social media.”

The Corbin player was identified by other media sources as Andrew Taylor, a senior at Corbin High School and a starter for the Redhound’s basketball team.

The comments have sent parents, players and fans into a frenzy, demanding action be taken against the student.

“He called my boys the ‘n word’ throughout the entire game,” said parent Melissa Turner. Turner’s sons were among those believed to be the focus of the alleged taunts. “Even while they shot free throws. If they missed he’d say dumb n***** can’t shoot.”

Frustration from the situation filtered upward to Knox County officials as well. “There is no place in sports or society for racial or other derogatory remarks,” said Shelton. “We are very disappointed that the focus of the game, an athletic rivalry between KCHS and Corbin, ended as it did.”

The Redhound’s basketball coach, Mike Pietrowski, said in a statement to local media “Currently two student athletes involved in our boys basketball program are serving a suspension due to a violation of team rules.” The second player was identified as Cameron Maguet, a CHS junior.

Another parent, Amy Hamilton, said she felt the comments were also directed toward her son, who is a member of the Panthers basketball team. “This is NOT okay and there should be consequences but ruining his future isn’t going to make any of this go away and a three-game suspension is not acceptable either!” Hamilton went on to share an illustration from her daughter. “My 11-year-old daughter gave a perfect example with a simple piece of paper. She took a piece of paper and crumbled it up (and) she said these are hurtful words said by people. Then she tried to put the paper back as it was originally and it wasn’t possible. People can forgive yes but it is nearly impossible to forget!”

Taylor released a lengthy public statement on social media Saturday through a personal Facebook account. “First of all I want to sincerely apologize to each and every person that took offense to the video that surfaced last night. Recently, a video has been circulating of me in a false light and has been taken grossly out of context. With the timing of the video and the context in which my words might have been taken, I can understand why one might see the video as controversial considering the world we live in today. For that reason, I am sincerely sorry from the bottom of my heart. I apologize, especially to the Knox Central players and parents who might have taken offense as well as to their fan base. Our rivalry with Knox Central brings out the strongest emotions from players, fans, and parents. However, my intentions never have been and never will be to speak disrespectfully of another race nor is disrespect or judgement in my heart. Again, I am truly, truly sorry and did not mean for my statement to be taken that direction.”

Shelton went on to say that “Our Knox County athletic programs are built around the principle that we are growing leaders and this, unfortunately, is a real life lesson on how to deal with a situation that should have never occurred.

“Knox Central players are the winners after this game, regardless of what the score board showed. They are demonstrating that they can keep their heads held high and be proud of who they are.

“There is an important lesson that both teams can learn from this incident that will benefit them throughout life.  Smack talk, whether in the locker room, on the ball court, or after a game can be healthy and encouraging – but it is never appropriate when you are targeting a person and bringing them down.   Basketball is a sport that brings us all together, as players and as fans, to motivate and cheer one another on – regardless of race.”