New Prague students accused of displaying white supremacist gesture in stands at state tournament hockey game – Reuters
ST. PAUL – The Minnesota State High School League said New Prague students participating in the State High School Boys Hockey Tournament in St. Paul were filmed Wednesday night, March 10, making a gesture of hand tied to white supremacy.
It is the latest in a string of racist incidents involving New Prague students or fans at sporting events – incidents that previously prompted two schools in the Twin Cities area to say they would not play not against New Prague teams.
Screengrabs from the television broadcast of Wednesday’s New Prague-Hermantown match, shown online, show the students making the “OK” hand gesture behind the New Prague bench.
This gesture has been embraced by white supremacists in recent years. In 2019, NPR reported, the Anti-Defamation League classified him as a hate symbol.
MSHSL said that after the gestures were caught on video, its officials immediately contacted the New Prague school administrators who were present at the game.
In a statement after the game, New Prague School District officials said the incident involved two elementary school students. The district said administrators addressed the incident as soon as they were made aware of the gestures and that “when questioned, the students did not understand what the signal meant. They were mimicking something that they had seen at an earlier hockey game on the big screen.”
District officials acknowledged they knew the gestures were ‘upsetting to many’ and that they ‘had no reason to believe [the students] knew it could mean white supremacy.”
But it follows other incidents, including a women’s basketball game in New Prague where fans allegedly made racist comments towards Robbinsdale Cooper players. Prague New Boys hockey players were accused of racist taunts during a game against St. Louis Park on the same day.
I will not tolerate or allow our students to experience further racism by participating in athletic competitions against New Prague High School. I will not tolerate your community and your students having teachable moments at the expense of our students.
Andrew Ewald, Athletic Director of St. Louis Park
Following the incidents last month, officials from the St. Louis Park District and Robbinsdale Cooper said they were canceling future sporting events with New Prague.
“I will not tolerate or allow our students to experience further racism by participating in sports against New Prague High School,” St. Louis Park athletic director Andrew Ewald wrote in a letter to New Prague officials. . “I will not stand for your community and your students to have teachable moments at the expense of our students.”
At that time, New Prague Superintendent Tim Dittberner released a statement to MPR News in which he acknowledged the incident at the hockey game and apologized for it.
“We do not tolerate racist or hate speech from students or athletes. We know the harm this causes. The incident was dealt with immediately. We sincerely apologize for this incident and make no apologies for the behavior,” Dittberner said.
He said his school was working with students, staff and coaches so that “these types of incidents do not happen again in the future”.
Earlier this week, MSHSL executive director Erich Martens told a Minnesota House committee that the league would not tolerate racial taunts, player threats or other outbursts. Martens said a model code of conduct for schools and a student conference on maintaining a welcoming environment are in the works.
“Certainly we want a big turnout from our student fans in particular, as well as our community fans. But when it comes to addressing individual players or cheering on another team or certainly going towards anything that is inappropriate or would be considered offensive, we need to clean that up,” he said.
Martens said the league is involved in supporting students who have been bullied and ensuring consequences are taken against the instigators.
In a statement posted online after Wednesday night’s hockey game, the league said it “condemns all actions intended to cause racial harm in any way and continues to work directly with member schools to represent best the mission and beliefs of the MSHSL”.