Rantz: Investigation found no n-word slurs at football game, some media keep misleading

Dec 13, 2022, 5:30 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2022, 2:27 pm
Football investigation...
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Lakes head football coach Dave Miller alleged his student-athletes were subject to racial taunts throughout a game against Stanwood High School.

He said he personally heard the n-word shouted from across the field, from the Stanwood student section. His assistant coach, Kory Eggenberger, called the taunts “aggressive.” He said the coaching staff reported the slurs to the referees “multiple times, but nothing was done to stop it.” Consequently, he said, his students “were subjected to these taunts for the remainder of the game.”

An independent investigation into the allegations on the football field suggests none of this happened. Moreover, the Clover Park Athletic Director, who oversees Lakes, says he didn’t hear any slurs and his coaches never reported it to him.

The third-party investigator found no evidence that players taunted their opponents with the n-word. There was also no evidence that fans from the Stanwood student section taunted players with the n-word or other racial slurs throughout the game. Media coverage has chosen not to report most of what’s in the investigation.

This should not come as a shock. Some of the allegations made little sense, and key claims were immediately questioned.

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The allegations never seemed credible

Head referee Steve Jensen told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that neither he nor his team of referees heard the n-word used. He also says neither the coaches nor players ever reported anything to them.

Further, the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH reviewed video of the entire game and could not identify any slur from the stands.

The investigation only found that one student “more likely than not” used “offensive” language from the stands, though he denies it. It was offensive language in the form of a racist name (not the n-word), but the investigation notes that “Several students immediately confronted the offending student about what he said and told him to stop using that kind of language.” The investigation notes that no one in the stands heard the n-word, including students of color who told the investigator that “such an incident would have resulted in them confronting the offending student and/or reporting it to District officials.”

The Clover Park Athletic Director, according to the investigation, also denied hearing the slur.

“He did not receive any complaints about racial slurs coming from the stands or field. He conferred with the Lakes Athletic Director a couple of times during the game and was not told of any concerns about racial slurs from the student section or players,” the investigator wrote.

The referees and chain crew said the same.

How could they even hear it?

Though coach Eggenberger claimed that “we had players coming to the sideline enraged from the racist remarks they were hearing from Stanwood players,” the investigation reveals only two players claim they heard the n-word and other racial slurs. “Other Lakes students,” the investigation reveals, “reported in their written statements that they did not hear racial slurs at the game.”

The stadium was loud. For anyone to have heard one n-word, let alone aggressive and sustained taunts from the student section, it would have had to travel past a track and field, the Stanwood bench and cheerleaders, the field of football players, and to the coach on the sideline. The investigator appears to find it hard to believe this occurred.

In addition, it is unclear that shouting of such a word from the stands could be heard on the field unless it was shouted repeatedly or by a group of people. If the “N-word” or similar slurs were shouted from the stands loud enough for the Lakes coaches and players to hear it on the field, it seems many witnesses, including Stanwood staff, parents, and others in and around the student section would have heard it and responded. Stanwood staff, including the Dean of Students, SRO, Principal, Assistant Principal, and parents who were close to the student section, all reported not hearing any racial slurs. They indicated they would have taken immediate action against any student making such slurs.

And the lack of communication from the coach is troubling.

“The Lakes Head Coach stated he heard the ‘N-word’ shouted from the stands during the pregame warm-up, yet he did not report this to the Stanwood coach, the referees, or his own Athletic Director who was at the game,” the investigation states. “Even though the Clover Park Athletic Director was present before, during, and after the game, the Lakes coaches did not inform him of the use of any racial slurs.”

Misleading media framing

If you read some reporting from the Tacoma News Tribune, which earlier reported the allegations as fact, you might not realize this appears to be a hate speech hoax at worse or a massive misunderstanding at best. Yet young students are being smeared.

The Everett Herald published the headline, “Visiting football team endures racial slurs at Stanwood football game.” There were no qualifiers; they say it happened as a fact. The Tacoma News Tribune’s Matt Driscoll, a left-wing columnist and opinions section editor, wrote that readers shouldn’t be shocked that this occurred.

“Still, the situation is more than an isolated incident, which is what’s particularly troubling. This was no one-off; instead, it was a repeat performance of hatred we’ve seen too many times before,” he wrote.

After the investigation was released, both the Herald and TNT falsely claimed “racial slurs ‘likely’ used” during the game. That’s not what the investigation found. In a separate incident that allegedly occurred in the girl’s bathroom, the investigation found evidence that “one student likely used a racial slur.” But the framing of these stories makes it seem like the original bombshell allegations were sustained when they weren’t.

While the name-calling is obviously derogatory, there’s no evidence that multiple “slurs” were used. It’s an important distinction because the headline gives false weight to the meritless allegation of non-stop n-word taunts at players. I think that was the intent of the reporting.

Inexplicably, Herald reporter Mallory Gruban did not mention the allegations made by the Lakes coaches in her story, so readers wouldn’t be left demanding answers from the coaching staff about what they claim they heard. Driscoll has not yet published a column on the results. KING 5 similarly framed the story in a misleading way, even labeling the wrong school, referring to Stanwood High School as “Camano High School” (which doesn’t exist).

What a disservice to these students

Racism exists, and there have certainly been examples of it in high school and college sports. These incidents deserve coverage and condemnation.

There have also been examples of hate hoaxes and simple misunderstandings. Those are equally important to cover and condemn.

One student in the stands reportedly used a racist name, and there should be consequences consistent with school policy. But to suggest the students in the stands — including black students — shouted the n-word throughout a game is absurd on its face. And it’s unsupported by evidence. Indeed, the investigation found they condemned the student. Shouldn’t that be applauded?

I’m not sure if this was a hate hoax or a misunderstanding; maybe it all happened as they claimed, just without any evidence so far. Clover Park School District has its own investigation into the allegations, so it’s certainly possible they uncovered information Stanwood Camano didn’t. A spokesperson tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that their report would be released “soon.” It’s worth noting that Clover Park’s investigator shared findings with Stanwood Camano’s investigator prior to the report’s release.

Whatever the case, the most egregious allegations were not found to have occurred in this investigation. Shouldn’t that earn at least equal coverage from local media? Or are they disappointed they didn’t find a bunch of racist Stanwood students? Will the media follow up with the Lakes staff?

The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH reached out to the Lakes Athletic Director, who said, “we are not to comment.” But he was open with the investigator in saying he didn’t hear any slurs, nor were any reported to him by the coaches.

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An apology is due

It can’t be that hard to prove that over several hours there was aggressive use of the n-word by students in the stands. And sans any evidence it happened, it should be treated as false. The Lakes staff ought to be pressed to explain their allegations.

Moreover, I think some media members owe Stanwood students and the community an apology.

I don’t expect journalists to offer their sincerest apologies, of course. I think most media members feel like they’re above even mild criticism and what they say is always sacrosanct. I suspect they will always hyperfocus on one finding and completely ignore the details that weren’t corroborated and never made sense. I sincerely believe they don’t care that they hurt a bunch of kids, labeling them racists without any evidence.

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Rantz: Investigation found no n-word slurs at football game, some media keep misleading