School District Sorry After Students Make Gorilla Noises at Black Player

A Washington school district has issued an apology after video footage surfaced showing students making racist chants and gestures at a Black player during a basketball game.

The Olympia School District issued an apology on January 19 after Ahmari Steplight from Lacey's River Ridge High School was subject to abusive taunts.

Students in the crowd were captured making gorilla noises at Steplight while making mocking hand gestures.

The footage went viral on social media after being posted to Instagram and came to the attention of Steplight and his father.

The Olympia School District issued an apology on January 19 addressing the incident on its website. The full apology can be viewed here.

"In the video clip [...] the term 'gorilla is used to describe the opposing player who is Black; comparing Black people to monkeys has a long, sinister, racist history in our society," the statement read.

"When something of this nature happens in a school district or organization, we sometimes hear responsive statements that the act 'is not who we are,' or that it is 'not a reflection of what we stand for."

"I do not subscribe to those viewpoints. This incident and others, like those reported in the article, are committed by those of us in this community. We are the community."

The player's father, Qayi Steplight, spoke to Fox 13 News and explained his reaction to the incident and what he believes is a wider issue of racism in the community.

"I needed to move forward and set the example that we are not going to tolerate this." Qayi Steplight said.

He added: "It got more derogatory when they started calling him a gorilla and then you can start to hear the section start to make the gorilla sounds and make the hand gestures.

"[My son] said he thought they were just taunting and I said 'no, there is a difference between taunting and when they start talking about how you look and specifically saying key words that have referenced as a far as how to describe Black people when you want to be derogatory."

He continued: "I kind of described it as a bubble, I think there is a lot of anger and resentment. A lot of issues here dealing with race and discrimination.

"The video burst the bubble because it was proof, it is not just people complaining and saying this is what is going on, we can pull it up and see it."

While speaking to KIRO-TV 7, Qayi Steplight also said when he learned of the incident it felt like "déjà vu" because he and his friends had dealt with being called apes and monkeys when they were growing up.

Ahmari Steplight also insisted he was not going to let the incident impact him negatively and would instead use it as motivation.

Newsweek
has contacted Capital High School for comment.

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Stock image of a Black man holding a basketball. A father has spoken to local media after his son experienced racist chants during a basketball game. Getty Images