Mahopac High School’s men’s basketball team coach Kevin Downes resigned from his position on Friday two weeks after eight students were suspended for using racist language on social media.
The student athletes were suspended when a series of obnoxious racially charged tweets surfaced after the predominantly Black Mount Vernon team defeated Mahopac 43-40 in the Section 1 Class AA semifinals in February. The tweets referred to players as “monkeys,” in addition to stereotyping players as fatherless. One tweet read: "One of the few biological Mount Vernon fathers just tried to sell me crack outside the county center."
Immediately after the incident Downes, an African-American and 1989 Mahopac graduate, pondered over his future with the team. He met with athletic director John Augusta and made the "tough" decision to step down.
"I was kind of heartbroken over all the stuff that happened," Downes said. "Not just the comments that were made but the 200-plus times those comments were liked, favorited and retweeted (on Twitter). It was tough, and it’s been tough on my kids."
The controversy has prompted other athletes who have played against Mahopac to come forward to reveal that this is not the first time racism in Mahopac reared its head. Former New Rochelle football and basketball player Joe Clarke, who plays both sports for Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts, told the Journal News Mahopac players in both sports called him the "N-word." "I just feel the school should put an end to it," he said.
But "putting an end to it" doesn’t just start with Mahopac High School but the community as well, according to Downes, who also experienced racism growing up in Mahopac in the ‘70s and ‘80s. "I still think there's a lot of good people there. I don't think it's everybody," Downes said, "Certainly, that's how people are looking at it now, but I still thought it was enough. I just felt like it would be hard to go back and feel like I was 100 percent supported."
Downes had a successful seven-year run as coach for Mahopac, and said his coaching career is not over. "I think, in the future, if an opportunity came up, I certainly would like to be able to coach again," Downes said. "I did a lot of soul-searching the last two weeks and just felt like the best thing for me to do was to move on."
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(Photo: Getty Images)