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Garfield coach: Race a factor in recent controversy

Garfield High's football program was investigated for recruitment violations. (Seattle Public Schools)
LISTEN: Garfield High School football coach 'vindicated' of allegations of recruiting

Garfield High School Football Coach Joey Thomas chose his words carefully Tuesday, but he made one thing clear: his football team was unfairly targeted and race was a factor.

“Without question, there’s no doubt about it (race was a factor),” Coach Thomas told KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don. “…There was nothing fair about this process and you can say the (Seattle) Times is a separate entity from Seattle Public Schools. Then you can say, ‘How did the Times get their information?’ They got it from someone in Seattle Public Schools.”

“When you go back and look at it, in the month of April there were four African American males plastered in the Seattle Times,” Thomas pointed out. “Three of them had to do with my situation, another one had nothing to do with my situation. That is an intentional act. It’s not accidental … what’s going on is very intentional. It’s sad. Yes, I’ve been targeted. Yes, Garfield has been targeted. And yes, I don’t believe this is going to stop. This is just the beginning, unfortunately.”

RELATED: The story behind the Garfield High School controversy

The allegations began with a student who came to Garfield from Texas in the fall of 2016. The student alleged that he was enticed to move from Texas to attend the Seattle high school in order to play football. It prompted an investigation, and the Seattle Times ran a story about it.

On Tuesday, the Seattle school district released this statement following the results of the investigation:

“The District is in receipt of the completed investigation report regarding the allegations of improper recruiting of student athletes to play football at Garfield High School. Based on the seriousness of the allegations, the District hired a third party investigator. The allegations against our employees were not substantiated. The investigation concludes there is no evidence that head football coach, Joey Thomas, violated WIAA and District recruiting rules.”

Garfield High School controversy

Coach Thomas said that his football team frustrated some people when it took a knee in 2016, similar to the act Colin Kaepernick took to call attention to discrimination. He said the investigation was partly a result of that.

“Without question that played a role in this process,” Thomas said. “I think there is a bigger issue going on here. I think there’s bigger issue in Seattle Public Schools and this investigation was just a byproduct of that. To be straight to the point, us taking a knee definitely rubbed people the wrong way. There’s definitely some people who didn’t like the stance we took as a team.”

Thomas further noted that The Seattle Times knew multiple aspects of the story when it initially reported on the investigation; that a Seattle man moved a troubled teen from Texas to Washington to help put him on a better path; that Coach Thomas had nothing to do with that move; and that the teen wasn’t playing on the team anymore because he wasn’t meeting academic standards. Thomas said that the newspaper chose not to run that version of the story, however.

“If you knew that, and you had that information, what was the whole purpose of you printing that article?” Thomas said.

The Seattle Times has reported on the results of the investigation.

Listen to Coach Joey Thomas’ full interview with Ron and Don here.

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