State and OSAA have taken action on this in recent years, yet a rash of incidents this school year has proven it remains a stunning problem

If you follow prep sports in Oregon, it's the story of the school year so far, and it's a disheartening, concerning story, one that should make you angry.

In four cases that were made public, Oregon high school athletic teams — kids — reported being victims of racial taunting and intimidation, from fans and from competitors.

The first public episode occurred in early November, when Gladstone, fresh off a victory over Madras, went to La Grande to open the football playoffs. Gladstone had a couple of Black kids on their team. The team's coaches, players and even fans reported repeated racial language from the La Grande players and fans. There was even a report of an official using somewhat racist language in referring to a Black Gladstone coach.

La Grande school officials responded as they should; they claimed to know nothing of it and wanted to get to the bottom of it.

The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) eventually conducted an independent investigation. It proved inconclusive. I'm sure they got a lot of "I didn't say anything" ...

The two schools came out with a joint statement of support and cooperation, like two well-run schools should.

But if you have a smell-o-meter, the lack of responsibility for the Gladstone-La Grande fiasco would have smashed it. No way the Gladstone contingent, the players, coaches and fans, would have made those widespread allegations if, at least, the vast majority actually occurred. Credit to La Grande High School for working with the OSAA, Gladstone and the investigation, but c'mon.

That one game would have been enough to mar the year, but it was only the start. Since then, there have been at least three other publicized cases of racist taunting and intimidation that Oregon prep teams endured.

In mid-December, the De La Salle girls basketball team, consisting of all Black players, traveled to play Clatskanie. The game got rough, in fact was stopped early by officials. The De La Salle players were reportedly the more aggressive team, but they also reported being repeatedly called the N-word by the Clatskanie players during the game.

In late January, the Gladstone athletes were again the target of racism, at a basketball game in Molalla. This time, it was the fans that were the culprits. Reportedly, a young fan dressed in blackface to attend the game, and another fan, an adult, waved a Confederate flag.

Wonderful. And that's in the same Tri-Valley Conference that Madras is a part of.

Earlier this month, the Reynolds girls basketball team walked off the court during a game at Sandy because of fans reportedly were taunting them by using the N word.

What is going on here? Why is this a fad?

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill targeted at just this issue, to hopefully reduce racial, cultural and ethnic transgressions in prep sports. The OSAA responded by starting its STAR Initiative in 2020 — Safety, Tolerance, Acceptance and Respect. The OSAA knows there are problems out there and its trying to address them.

But more needs to be done to combat this, right now. How about this:

Not that officials don't have enough on their plates, but I would give them the power to stop the game when there were reports of such activity. The official would talk to both the offended player and the alleged offender. If the official heard it, the offending player would be tossed. If not, the alleged offender would be put on notice that their actions and words would be watched the rest of the game. No second warning before ejection.

As for the audience. The hosting school usually has officials there to promote sportsmanship — and it's usually the athletic director. The lead official and the hosting athletic director need to work together to identify the audience member who is committing the racist insults. That player or audience member must be removed before the game will resume.

If an infraction occurs again in that game, the game will be forfeited to the visiting team. If a program has a third infraction in their season, they will be banned from post-season play. A fourth infraction, and the entire school will be banned from post-season play in any sport for one year. Zero tolerance, and a powerful onus on the hosting team. .

Our young athletes, kids, should not have to endure such treatment. It's heartbreaking. The OSAA needs to ramp up its effort to stop it, and schools that are allowing it to occur need to wake up, and pay a price if they can't clean it up..

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