By Jeffery Armstrong
I've been covering high school sports for three years now in the South Metro/Southern Crescent area and I've enjoyed it immensely. Throughout those years, I've seen some good things and I've seen some bad things. What I heard on April 1, 2003 at Jonesboro High School was enough to make me sick to my stomach.
I heard a racial slur and was told of another slur directed at a player for the first time ever at a high school game. The sad thing is that this incident isn't the first time racism has pervaded high school sports. According to Lovejoy High basketball player Michael Sloan's mother and older brother, Sloan was the victim of racial slurs during the basketball playoffs. Sloan retaliated and was suspended by school officials. Now I didn't see or hear any of this, so I can't say much about it. I was a witness to what happened at Jonesboro on April 1.
Jonesboro High's boys soccer team played host to Henry County that night and Henry was winning. A few White Jonesboro students were standing on the sidelines taunting the Henry players. They targeted the White players for a while and then they turned their attention to Henry's African-American starter Udo Obiechefo, No. 5. They first taunted Obiechefo by telling him to tuck his shirt in and maybe he'd play better. There's nothing wrong with that. Later, I distinctly heard them say "Don't trip over your lips, No. 5" more than once. I truly couldn't believe it.
It got so bad for young Udo that when he scored the final goal for Henry, he retaliated by making an obscene statement and gesture to those FEW students who made the lips statements. As a result of this, he received a red card from the official, meaning he had to sit out the next scheduled game, which happened to be against huge county rival Stockbridge High.
Now I didn't see Udo retaliate against them because I turned my head to write down the type of score and the time the goal was scored, which is what I do whenever I cover soccer. So I was astonished to see that he received a red card after scoring. That almost never happens, so as a reporter, I had to find out what Udo did. I talked to the officials after the game to find out what he did to receive the red card, wrote that info down, interviewed both coaches about the game and wrote my story for the next day's paper.
Before I go on, let me add a footnote to this column. I received some fan mail the other day, lambasting me for my story I wrote after that game. The letter writer claimed I was biased because he or she overheard me talking that night about how I didn't appreciate the lip comments. This person wrote that the lip comments weren't racist, that I condoned what Udo did and I hurt the school and the game of soccer.
Give me a @$*!@ break!
First of all, what I failed to say out loud for "Nosy Rosie" was that I found out those kids also called Udo a "big-lipped monkey." That's disgusting and I would like for "Nosy Rosie" to try and dispute the nastiness of THAT remark. Calling any Black person a monkey is racist (and has been for a long time) and those kids were dead wrong for saying that to Udo. On the other hand, what Udo did wasn't right, either. It was definitely unsportsmanlike and he deserved the red card. Two wrongs definitely don't make a right.
Interestingly, "Nosy Rosie" doesn't want an apology or a rebuttal from me about my FACTUAL game story. That's good, because I am not going to apologize. My editor reviewed the game story and there's no way he would've let it run if he felt something was wrong.
"Nosy" also said I made Jonesboro fans look bad. There are a lot of good fans at Jonesboro it's just that a certain few need their mouths washed out with soap like Ralphie in the movie "A Christmas Story."