Emery High School Principal Larry Davis responded Friday in a letter posted on the school’s website to a recent allegation of “racism and poor sportsmanship” following the Spartans’ semifinal loss to Summit Academy on Feb. 26 at the 2A State Tournament in Richfield.
In a 1,195 word response, Davis said the school’s administration and athletic department conducted an internal investigation following a social media post by Summit Academy assistant basketball coach Hector Marquez, accusing “Emery High School, North Sevier and other schools in the southern region” of racial improprieties during and following the Summit Academy/Emery game at the Sevier Valley Center.
“It is unfortunate that the entire event has been tainted by comments posted on social media by a member of the Summit Academy faculty and coaching staff,” Davis said in the school’s statement. “In our view, these matters could have been handled in a much more professional manner rather than tossing allegations into the wind without any attempt to discuss them in person with the officials from schools he claims to be racist.”
Marquez also said in his Facebook post that parents “were calling our players the “N” word.”
“It should also be noted that the UHSAA representative at the game, the game’s officials and Sevier Valley Center security have yet to verify any racial improprieties involving Emery High School at that game,” Davis said. “In fact, the security officer adjacent to the Emery High student section commented to an EHS administrator how well behaved our students were throughout the game.”
Marquez additionally mentioned a chant of “USA, USA, USA” that was used by the Emery student body section during the game, claiming the chant was directed at his team.
Davis did admit the student body used the chant, but that “the chant was not racially motivated as has been alleged.” He said the students participating in the chant were “misinformed about the roster of SA and assumed that their recruiting involved something similar to the recruiting of Wasatch Academy,” which recruits players from all over the world.
“We recognize that the chant was inappropriate and exhibited poor sportsmanship on our part, but it was not racial in nature nor meant to be vulgar,” Davis said.
Marquez also alleged that an Emery coach called his point guard a “son of a b****” during the game.
“Head coach Todd Jeffs has said that he did not hear such language from his team or staff, nor did anyone else on the team,” Davis’ statement included. “That’s not to say it didn’t come from somewhere, but to say it came from our team is not accurate.” He also said that the same point guard repeatedly taunted players and coaches on the Emery bench and the student section during the game.
An incident at a Maverik store in Richfield later Friday night, allegedly between Emery fans and Summit Academy players, and another right after in which racial slurs were used toward the same players on their way back to their hotel, were reported to Richfield Police. Marquez stated he and those involved were “up till 2 a.m. writing up a police report.”
“Interestingly, the investigating officer in Richfield told the Emery SO (Sheriff’s Office) that although there was inappropriate behavior, no crimes were committed, there was no surveillance of the incident, and the SA players involved chose not to file a written report,” Davis stated. “In addition, we have made no connection to our students or anyone directly associated with our school (coaches, players, faculty, staff, advisors, etc.) with those described as shouting racial slurs from a passing vehicle near the convenience store.”
ETV 10 News contacted Richfield Police for this story, but a return call was not received by press time.
To those who have suggested Emery High School hold assemblies regarding racial tolerance and respect, Davis had a quick answer.
“We do that already,” he said. “The Utah High School Activities Association has a very detailed sportsmanship program that member schools are expected to follow. Each year when schools meet the criteria of the program, they are rewarded by the association. Since the program began nearly six years ago, Emery High has met the requirements every year, and we have the banner with the gold stars in our Spartan Center to prove it.”
Davis concluded his public response with the following words:
“Because of the very nature of social media, our school has been impugned based on a single cowardly post,” he said. “Any school administrator will tell you that there are those few within each student body who maintain less than the highest standards of ethical behavior. To condemn an entire school, school district, or rural region because of that is unjustified. Where we have erred, we apologize. Where we have been erred against, that is a matter of personal conscience beyond our control.”
To read Davis’ letter in its entirety, go to Emery High School’s webpage at www.emerycsd/emery.cfm.