Violence erupted at a Michigan high school football game when black student-athletes stood up for what they believed in and were met with fists. “Grown men and women started spitting on our kids as they walked up the ramp. They were throwing food, cups and whatever,” Denby High School coach Deon Godfrey told the Detroit Free Press last month.
The spark that ignited such hate was kindled when black students simply took a knee during the national anthem of a semifinal game Nov. 23, according to the coach. Detroit’s Denby High School took on Almont High School, which is located in the majority-white city of Almont, Michigan, about 50 miles north of Detroit.
Godfrey said an Almont parent punched his player in the face, prompting his teammates to run to the athlete’s aid, and it wasn’t long before even Denby’s white coaches were being called “wiggers.”
“Our cameraman is white and was filming near some Almont fans,” Godfrey told the Detroit Free Press. “During the national anthem, he overheard them saying: ‘Look at these N-words taking a knee and they don’t even know why they’re doing it,’ and they kept going.”
The simple act of kneeling during the national anthem created a nationwide controversy when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a similar stance three years ago to protest police brutality and social injustice. As a result, he was all but banned from the NFL and targeted with threats and profanities, including from President Donald Trump.
In September 2017, the president of thoughtless words with severe consequences shouted this at an Alabama rally for Republican senator Luther Strange: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
And just like that, the president indirectly authorized more hate in the United States—and his followers were happy to oblige.
“They called my student trainer a little monkey and they were saying: ‘Who let them off their leashes?'” Godfrey said. “‘They need to be on a leash. They never should have been here in the first place.’ ”
Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told the Detroit Free Press the Sunday following the brawl that the school district was holding off on any disciplinary action until it could further review what happened. But in an amended statement the next day, Vitti confirmed Godfrey’s version of what happened to the newspaper.
“Based upon preliminary findings, it is our understanding that Almont adult spectators were cursing and spitting on our coaches and players after the game while leaving the field,” Vitti said. “The disrespect toward the city, school, and players continued on social media after the game where Almont fans used numerous racist stereotypes.
“We look forward to getting to the bottom of what occurred based on factual evidence to determine the district’s next steps on how to best support our school and its administration, coaches, and students.”
One Denby supporter, a black woman, was shown on video taking matters into her own hands and addressing Almont fans during the later state championship game Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit.
The Times Herald identified the man recording the woman as Steve Moody, but the woman wasn’t identified.
“What are you gonna do? You gonna spit on me? You gonna call me the ‘N’ word,” she asked in the video. “You gonna call me monkey? Come get a leash, like you did those poor kids?”
”I’m staying here,” she said, responding to requests from the crowd to “move on.”
”I’m gonna stay right here, and about 100 or more of us are on our way,” she said.
Video of the Denby supporter who security removed from the game has surfaced. “What are you gonna do? You gonna spit on me? You gonna call me the ‘N’ word? You gonna call me a monkey?” she’s heard saying to Almont fans at Ford Field. pic.twitter.com/CSQoCffhWl
— Brandon Folsom (@folsombrandonj) November 30, 2019