An incident at a western Illinois high school has sparked widespread reaction after a video was published showing a Black football player sitting in his locker, surrounded by banana peels and being taunted by his teammates.
The incident occurred at a high school in the Moline-Coal Valley School District, according to law enforcement and school officials.
The video was published to social media, igniting a firestorm of controversy and sparking multiple investigations, including by the City of Moline Police Department.
The department says it has conducted interviews with multiple student-athletes, coaches and staff from the high school, and that it presented its findings to the school district’s superintendent.
“Those involved are fellow high school football teammates. They are also individuals of both different and similar races to the victim. The students directly involved in the video are all friends. Regardless of these facts, we all agree that this is a disgusting way to treat a fellow teammate, a fellow human and most certainly a friend,” officials with the department said in a statement.
According to officials, the school district is also conducting its own concurrent investigation into the incident.
“The actions in the video are intolerable and unacceptable, and will not go unsanctioned,” Dr. Rachel Savage, superintendent of schools, said.
The teen, who is not being identified, issued a statement to law enforcement officials and school officials in Moline, saying that he is “fine” and that he wants to get his life back together.
“I want to make it known that I am fine. Everyone is worried about me and showing concern for me and I really appreciate it. I love the football team I’m on, and they’re good guys,” he said. “I want to get my life back together, and my student-athlete life back on track, so If you ever see me or know who I am, treat me as a human first and not a victim.”
Tracy White, founder of Well-Suited Quad Cities, says that she feels compelled to speak out after the incident, with the video appearing numerous times in her social media feeds.
“At the end of the day, I’ve seen that look before,” she said. “I have seen that look of hurt, that look of why me?’”
White says that there is pressure on the teen to accept the situation and to move on, but she says that there is a need for a deeper look into the roots of the incident.
“There is some pressure for him to just be OK with it, but we are not OK with it,” she said. “This is one more thing that will just get swept under the rug.”
David Goldenberg of the Anti-Defamation League agrees, saying that the video is part of a growing trend of “hate crimes and bias incidents” that are being reported across the U.S.
“We have seen a steady increase in hate crimes… occurring over the last few years,” he said. “These are real problems that exist, and that have to be overcome.”
The Moline Police Department says that the video is another example of why Illinoisans and Americans must confront ugly realities in order to move forward and to grow.
“This is a teaching moment for everyone and a reminder that we can do better,” Moline Chief of Police Darren Gault said. “We can treat people better. We can be better friends. We can be better people.”