The fist pumping celebratory chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” on the sidelines of a sporting event may sound innocuous, but at a high school basketball game in San Antonio, Texas, it has triggered a controversy.
At a championship game last Saturday, Alamo Heights High School, which is made up mostly of white basketball players, beat Edison High, with predominantly Hispanic players. Celebrating the victory, a group of student supporters cheered “USA! USA!” The San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), which represents Edison, has called these chants “disrespectful,” and has filed a complaint with the University Interscholastic League, the governing body of high-school sports in the area, reports MSNBC.
“Our kids try real hard and work extra hard to get to the regional tournament, and then we have to worry about them being subjected to this kind of insensitivity,” SAISD’s executive director of athletics Gil Garza told San Antonio’s KENS-TV. “To be attacked about your ethnicity and being made to feel that you don’t belong in this country is terrible.”
Alamo Heights Superintendent Kevin Brown said he has apologized, the San Antonio Express News reports, and as punishment, those involved in the chanting will not be allowed to attend the team’s remaining state title games.
But not everyone agrees with the accusations of racism. The web is rife with comments that invoke American nationalism and some anti-immigrant sentiment. “You can burn an American flag and be protected under the first amendment, yet the chant of USA brings about an administrative punishment and being required to apologize? It would be a cold day in hell before I allowed my child to be punished for chanting USA,” read one comment on The Blaze, a conservative news website owned by Glen Beck’s Mercury Radio Arts. “Are you kidding me – the use of USA is now racist? When did it become racist to be proud of your country?” said another on the Facebook page of KSAT12 News.
This is not the first time a basketball match in San Antonio has take such a turn. In a 2011 incident, students from the mostly white Cedar Park High School chanted “USA! USA!” and “Arizona! Arizona!” (which was at the center of a raging debate over its controversial anti-immigrant legislation) toward the mostly Hispanic Lanier High. A similar complaint was filed, for which Cedar Park’s school district apologized.
“Some question why the chant of U.S.A. is wrong,” SAISD officials clarified in a statement on Wednesday. “It is not wrong in the appropriate context. Often it is heard at international events in support of our country versus another. If the chant was commonplace – chanted regularly at games with other high schools – it would not be an issue. In this case, it was targeted at a school that is predominantly Hispanic.”
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