Yonkers high school basketball coach, player dismissed after antisemitic incident at game

BySamantha Beech and Maria Sole Campinoti, CNNWire
Monday, January 8, 2024
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YONKERS, New York -- A girls high school basketball coach and one of the team's players have been dismissed after the team they were playing against was targeted by antisemitic rhetoric during a game in New York last week, according to a statement from the school system and the mayor of Yonkers.

The investigation into the incident is ongoing, officials said, adding other people possibly involved could be disciplined.

The game took place Thursday between the girls' varsity teams from The Leffell School, a private Jewish school in Hartsdale, and Roosevelt High School Early College Studies, a public school in Yonkers.

During the third quarter, members of The Leffell School team were injured by what Leffell player Robin Bosworth called "the other team's physical style of play" in an op-ed for her online school newspaper, The Lion's Roar.

Her team decided to end the game early, after the third quarter, according to Bosworth.

Bosworth added players on the opposing team shouted "antisemitic slurs and curses at us."

"Attacking a team because of their school's religious association is never acceptable, but especially due to the current war in Israel and the world's rise in antisemitism, this felt extremely personal to me and many members of my team," Bosworth wrote.

Officials say hate speech won't be tolerated.

Yonkers Public Schools Interim Superintendent Luis Rodriguez and Mayor Mike Spano Sunday issued a statement Sunday condemning the incident.

"The Yonkers Public Schools along with the City of Yonkers sincerely apologize to the students and community of The Leffell School for the painful and offensive comments made to their women's basketball team during a recent game with Roosevelt High School- Early College Studies," the officials said.

"Collectively, we do not and will not tolerate hate speech of any kind from our students and community. The antisemitic rhetoric reportedly made against the student athletes of The Leffell School are abhorrent, inappropriate and not in line with the values we set forth for our young people."

Yonkers Public Schools said an initial investigation was conducted involving game officials, coaches, students and school officials from The Leffell School.

"After a thorough review of videos taken at the game and interviews with those who witnessed the incident, the Yonkers Public Schools dismissed the coach and one player from the Roosevelt basketball team," the statement said. "The investigation is ongoing. Should the District determine other students were involved in the incident, further action would be taken by the school District where appropriate."

Officials said in the joint statement, "Along with Mayor Spano's convening of religious, educational and civic leaders, Yonkers Public Schools also will administer further counseling and guided training sessions amongst the school community so to prevent this from happening again."

CNN has reached out to representatives from both schools and the department of education for comment.

Officials have not identified the coach or the player.

One Roosevelt basketball player said she doesn't understand why the coach was dismissed.

The shooting guard and another teammate acknowledged players on both teams certainly exchanged words, but she said curses and abusive language were never uttered.

Restoration efforts between Yonkers Public Schools and The Leffell School are underway, according to Yonkers Public Schools spokesperson Jamal Akeem.

In a letter, the head of school at Leffell said Roosevelt's principal and athletic director issued apologies for what happened on the court and he welcomed the possibility of a face-to-face meeting between the leadership of both schools and perhaps the players themselves.

The county executive also has a plan along those same lines.

"We are working through our Human Rights Commission and the Westchester County youth bureau on a program that will open some dialogue and promote some understand and discussion," Westchester County Executive George Latimer said.

Bosworth wrote in her op-ed, "I have played a sport every athletic season throughout my high school career, and I have never experienced this kind of hatred directed at one of my teams before."

"If a team shows blatant disrespect towards my team and our school community's values, it should not be tolerated or forgotten immediately following the game," Bosworth wrote.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Saturday shared a link to a news story about the incident on X, formerly known as Twitter. "A high school basketball game. This cannot be who we are as New Yorkers. No one should ever be subjected to antisemitism or any kind of hate," Hochul wrote.

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