Coach fired over watermelon, ape-like celebrations
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) A high school football coach was fired because of postgame victory celebrations the district superintendent said involved players smashing watermelons and making ape-like sounds.
Superintendent Nancy McGinley said Tuesday she was contacted last week by a board member who said the parent of an opposing player was offended by the celebrations by the mostly white Academic Magnet High School football team in Charleston County. The Raptors were smashing watermelons with smiling faces drawn on them and eating the fruit as a postgame snack.
The district announced that Bud Walpole will no longer coach the football team or the girls' basketball team. He is still a teacher at the school.
A phone listing for Walpole could not be found. On online petition had 1,500 names late Tuesday seeking his reinstatement.
McGinley said the district met with players and students, the head coach and the two assistant coaches last week. She said the coaches told district officials they were aware of the ritual and ''they did not observe cultural insensitivity.''
She said after victories the team would gather and a face was drawn on a watermelon with eyes and a nose and a smile showing a mouthful of teeth. While two players smashed the watermelon, McGinley said the others made chanting sounds.
''It was our conclusion that the accountability lies with the adults - that the perceptions and practices that were part of this ritual were not something that adults should have sanctioned,'' she said.