New Prague students launch ‘white power’ gesture at state hockey tournament

Already under fire for racist behavior at school sporting events, New Prague students appeared to add more fuel to the blaze on Wednesday, as a television camera during the high school hockey tournament Minnesota caught students flashing what appeared to be a symbol of white power.

But the school district said elementary students flashing the “OK” sign had no idea it could be construed as a racist gesture.

“The school administration took care of the situation immediately after being informed,” the New Prague district said in a statement on Thursday. “When questioned, the students did not understand what the cue meant. They were mimicking something they had seen in a previous hockey game on the big screen. We have no reason to believe that they knew it could mean white supremacy.”

The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), which organizes the hockey tournament, said it was also assured that the students had acted unintentionally.

After the gestures were spotted, the league said it immediately contacted New Prague School officials who were on site at the Xcel Energy Center for the game against Hermantown.

“The students were unaware [racist] sense,” the league said. “New Prague has taken steps to appropriately address this behavior with students.

“MSHSL condemns all actions that seek to harm the race in any way and continues to work directly with member schools to best represent the mission and beliefs of MSHSL.”

Recently, St. Louis Park and Robbinsdale announced that they would no longer play New Prague in the sport after their players were subjected to racist taunts. Earlier this week, MSHSL Executive Director Erich Martens testified at a State House committee meeting about the league’s efforts to crack down on racist behavior at sporting events.

Rob Young, a hockey parent from New Prague, said the youngsters were only 10 years old and playing the “circle game”. In this game, one person makes the “OK” gesture, and if another person watches, they get punched in the shoulder.

Young added that taunts at recent sporting events were the actions of a single individual and do not represent the community.

“A person doesn’t define a team or a community,” he said.

Berta D. Wells