At least a dozen female basketball players at a western New York high school were suspended for chanting a racial slur as part of their warm-up routine, the Buffalo News reported.
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The team at Kenmore East High School, near Buffalo, apparently had chanted "One, two, three [N-word]!" for years, to the ignorance of their coaches and school administrators.
The officials only learned of the practice after the current team’s sole African-American, sophomore Tyra Batts, was caught brawling with a teammate over the use of the slur.
While both girls were suspended for fighting, school district officials were called in to deal with the allegations of racism.
Batts said she only learned of the chant ahead of the season opener against Sweet Home High School on Dec. 2.
"I said, ‘You’re not allowed to say that word because I don’t like that word,’" Batts told the paper. "They said, ‘You know we’re not racist, Tyra. It’s just a word, not a label.’ I was outnumbered."
The investigation by Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District found the players guilty of violating the school’s conduct code and the extracurricular athletic code, superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro confirmed.
He said the chant, apparently always delivered after adults had left the locker room, was "wrong, unacceptable, unfortunate and will never, ever be tolerated."
The offending players will each serve a one-game suspension across the season, receive a two-day, out-of-school suspension and be required to attend cultural-sensitivity training. A scheduled game against Olean on Saturday was postponed.
Batts’ family welcomed apologies from Mondanaro and the school’s principal, but said the punishments handed out should have been more severe.
"This wasn’t something that just developed this year," Tyra’s father, Raymond Batts Jr., said. "This is something that’s been ongoing for quite some time."