Investigation Launched After Racial, Antisemitic Slurs Yelled At Players During High School Soccer Game

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) and Page High School have begun investigating allegations that Page fans at a May 22 soccer match hurled racist and antisemitic slurs at players from Martin Luther King (MLK) Magnet High School.

The TSSAA began investigating after MLK's assistant principal and athletic director both sent a complaint to the association on Monday alleging the verbal abuse. The slurs allegedly occurred during a final soccer match to qualify for the state's championship tournament.

"There were at least five MLK students that were personally targeted by the Page fans," the complaint said, according to The Tennessean. "This unruly and disgraceful act created a hostile and unsafe athletic environment for our students and spectators."

Tennessee soccer antisemitic racist slurs investigation
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) has launched an investigation into racist and antisemitic slurs allegedly shouted to players at a recent boys' soccer game. In this photo illustration, boys in green and blue uniforms play soccer. matimix/Getty

According to the complaint, parents and students from Page allegedly yelled, "Did they get their VISAs?" and "Go back to your own country" to MLK players of color. The fans also allegedly directed antisemitic slurs at players who appeared to be Jewish.

A referee reportedly removed spectators from behind the net to stop them from verbally abusing the goalie. One MLK player asked his coach, Whit Campbell, to be repositioned away from the hecklers to avoid further insults, according to WKRN.

Page coach Nathan Clapp said he didn't hear the slurs, but he did hear one fan yelling, "You are so terrible," at another player. Clapp said he could tell from the "tone and demeanor" of the players that they had been subjected to other insults. Page reportedly admonished his school's fans for the abuse. MLK parents expressed appreciation for his actions.

While the TSSAA investigates, its policies require member school principals to address disrespectful fan behavior. Page has since started its own investigation. The school's administration has also apologized for its fans' alleged behavior, saying it represents neither the school nor its values.

In a separate letter, several MLK parents said they want Page's fans to be held accountable, but they do not want to penalize the school's soccer team.

Page's student body is much whiter and less diverse than MLK's. Page High School in Franklin, Tennessee has a student body that is 86.5 percent white, 4 percent Asian and 3.6 percent Hispanic, according to the school comparison website SchoolDigger.com.

MLK Magnet High School in Nashville, Tennessee has a student body that is 42 percent Black, 39 percent white, 11 percent Asian and Pacific Islander as well as 7 percent Hispanic, according to the school comparison website, GreatSchools.com

Page won its soccer game against MLK with a 2-0 score.

Racist slurs have long been a problem in professional soccer games as well. As of 2013, FIFA, the international governing body of professional soccer, has threatened to clear stadiums or penalize teams if fans direct slurs or verbal abuse to opposing team members.

Newsweek contacted Page High School for comment.