Racism on full display via social media from the Salinas High School Football Jamboree, which led to the suspension of three Salinas students, carried over to Friday’s football season opener at Half Moon Bay.
“Black Lives Matter” signs on display greeted arriving traffic, and six Half Moon Bay students marched up and down Lewis Foster Drive waving signs renouncing racism. The students’ ire was based on some now notorious video footage filmed Friday, Aug. 20 at the Salinas Football Jamoree and proliferated on social media depicting a doll used to promote disparaging messages of a sexist, racist and violent nature.
Three Salinas students were suspended in connection with the video, and one cheerleader was kicked off the high school’s cheer squad for being photographed with the doll, KSBW Action News 8 in Salinas reported.
But these punishments were not sufficient, according to Half Moon Bay freshman Alex Sardella, who said there should be more far-reaching accountability considering there were parents and faculty in attendance at the on-campus jamboree.
“It’s just the people who got caught (who were punished), that’s the thing,” Sardella said. “You had parents and administrators there and they’re not doing anything to stop it.”
The six Half Moon Bay students protesting at Friday’s game — Sardella, senior Austin Yeakley, freshman Angelina Yeakley, sophomore Natalie Cornelison, junior Haley Garcia and junior Nadia Comeaux — are not alone in their objection to the number of punishments handed down. Last week, Lisa Principi of KION-TV in Salinas reported a number of Salinas High parents are demanding further discipline from the school and a districtwide campaign to promote racial sensitivity.
The six Half Moon Bay student protesters were all in agreement, though, that the response insofar as their school is concerned should have been to not allow last Friday’s football game with Salinas at Half Moon Bay to be played.
“If I heard it was that big an event then more people should be punished,” Alex Yeakley said, “and I feel they should not be able to play.”
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Salinas High, but the venue was changed last Wednesday due to Salinas not wanting any further attention in the wake of what has become a national story.
“They called us a few days ago and said because of what happened at their jamboree, and the fallout because of it, they didn’t feel like that was a good place to host a game and asked us to do it,” Half Moon Bay principal John Nazar said.
Nazar and the staff at Half Moon Bay had to OK the venue change in a hurry, and also had to deal with logistical issues, such as arranging staff to host the event and hiring referees. The referee issue was solved when a crew from Peninsula Sports Inc. of the Salinas area agreed to commute to work the game.
“As a school, though, we had a lot of discussions with student body, administration, and some very deep ones,” Nazar said, “because people are aware of this. And it’s a concern to our kids and our community. But ultimately, we made the decision that the kids that are coming up were not involved in that. Salinas said they have done a thorough investigation; they have identified the people that were involved; and very few football kids were involved. So, they’re coming up — and these are kids who have either advocated afterwards saying what was wrong — to deprive them, or to punish our kids who have done nothing wrong under the circumstance, we wanted to allow the kids from their school a chance to heal and give our kids an opportunity to play.”
The Half Moon Bay protesters were greeted with frequent shows of support — shouts of approval and honks of car horns — from those driving up Lewis Foster Drive en route to the game. But not everyone was kind, Austin Yeakley said.
“People have laughed at us and lowered their heads at us in dismissal,” he said.
The protesters had the support of the Half Moon Bay administration, however, and were encouraged to voice their disapproval in the manner they did.
“That’s part of our school discussions,” Nazar said. “A number of those kids are in our leadership program. I met with them for about an hour [before the game Friday] and we had, I think, a very genuine discussion. And we talked about feelings and what we exhibit, and I talked about what I felt is we can’t persecute a whole school of kids for the actions of some, that we’ve got to trust that they’ve done their due diligence.
“But they said: ‘We would like to express our opinions on Black Lives Matter, that we believe in no hate,’” Nazar said. “And that is something we focus on here. So I told them: ‘You have a freedom of speech.’ I respect that and I will support that. But it’s not to denigrate or put down the others. It’s awareness, it’s those kinds of things. And that’s what I’m hoping, and believe, our kids are going to do.”