WNBA Players Support Florida High School Athletes After Allegations Of Punishment For Wearing BLM Shirts [UPDATED]

WNBA Players Support Florida High School Athletes After Allegations Of Punishment For Wearing BLM Shirts [UPDATED]

American Heritage-Delray School officials profess race had nothing to do with canceling a recent game.

UPDATED ON : DECEMBER 18, 2020 / 12:43 PM

Written by Nigel Roberts

UPDATE: This story has been updated with a statement from American Heritage-Delray School in response the students accounts and the hacking of the virtual classroom. There is also additional information from a report by The Palm Beach Post.

 

WNBA players rallied behind two Florida high school basketball players after it was alleged that their private school canceled a game last Thursday (Dec. 10) in response to the students’ decision to wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts during their warm-up. School officials, however, say the game was canceled as a result of stopping the further spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV identified the student athletes as Jordana Codio and Khadee Hession of American Heritage School in Boca Delray, Florida. The students reportedly wore the shirts in response to a racial slur that was posted in a virtual classroom several weeks ago. After Heritage-Delray investigated the incident, it was determined that a student from another school hacked their virtual classroom system and was responsible for the online attack. 

American Heritage -Delray was initially blamed by parents for not doing enough to respond to the incident, but once all the facts came to light, the school’s President Douglas Laurie issued a statement via the institution’s attorney, Eric Schwartzreich:

“What is being circulated on social media is based on misinformation.  This all started in our Palm Beach school because a student from a public school (not American Heritage School) infiltrated a virtual class and used a racial slur. American Heritage Deans and our IT department investigated the incident. Action was taken. We promptly informed the principal of the public school whose student committed the act. The facts of this case were communicated to students and families of our Palm Beach campus last week.”

Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler took to social media to stand in solidarity with the suspended players.

“Keep standing for what you believe in @khadeehession! @americanheritagebocadelray this how you treat black athletes?” Wheeler wrote.

Both Codio, Hession and their parents, however, believe the girls were punished by the school’s athletic director Laney Stearns and his wife, Heritage-Plantation athletic director Karen Stearns, for the way in which they decided to protest the incident and are using the pandemic as a smoke screen for ultimately canceling the game. 

“There was very, very conflicting information,” Kara Codio, Jordana’s mother told The Palm Beach Post. “Clearly, there was some kind of collusion (between Laney and Karen Stearns). To me, this was done under cover. It was like, ‘we’re going to use COVID as an excuse.’”

The conflict was enough to get the attention of several high-profile WNBA players including Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler who took to social media to stand in solidarity with the Codio, Hession and the other players. 

“Keep standing for what you believe in @khadeehession! @americanheritagebocadelray this how you treat black athletes?” Wheeler wrote.

The Washington Mystics’ Natasha Cloud also spoke out in support of the teens.

RELATED: Family Harassed Over Black Lives Matter Shirts at Six Flags

“The administration that tried to silence these athletes by canceling games because of a BLM t-shirt should be dismissed,” adding, “Institutional racism is alive and thriving still in our education system.”

On behalf of the school, attorney Schwartzreich, wants it to be known that the students on the Delray girls’ basketball were not suspended nor punished for their protest and that the school has zero tolerance policy regarding racism, bullying, or any type of discrimination.

“American Heritage is the most diverse private school in Florida. We pride ourselves in our diversity, therefore we have implemented a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program. American Heritage is the only school in South Florida that was ranked one of the top in philanthropic contributions. The #1 benefactor of those contributions is an organization that helps over 12,000 underprivileged Black youth in Broward County. This is our school's #1 charity to whom we donate,” he provided in a statement.

The Palm Beach Post, however, reports that besides the risk of COVID-19, the school does have a uniform policy and that the students were in violation of it by wearing the BLM shirts.

“We’re not going to suspend someone or anything like that because it’s a dress-code violation,” said Laurie. “But at some point, it becomes defiance of authority. If it continues and continues and continues, we’ll have to go from there.”

(Photos by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images & Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

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