Ref allegedly calls child N-word at Tennessee HS basketball game

Smyrna High School in Tennessee was the scene of a walkout by the Nashville STEM Prep girls and boys basketball teams.

Smyrna High School in Tennessee was the scene of a walkout by the Nashville STEM Prep girls and boys basketball teams.
Image: Wikimedia commons

The story out of Smyrna, Tenn., on Wednesday night appears to be both rage-inducing and fairly self-explanatory, but there’s a lot more that needs explanation, and a lot of questions that need answering.

Nashville’s STEM Prep had a basketball doubleheader — boys and girls — at Smyrna High School, about 20 miles out of town, halfway to Murfreesboro. A referee allegedly directed a racial slur at one of the STEM girls players, which led the STEM team to walk off the court.

The Tennessee Holler posted video of a woman who said that it was her granddaughter who was subjected to the N word. (Warning: language)

Since it was her granddaughter, that means it’s the girls game that STEM walked out of. The @SmyrnaBball Twitter account later posted that it had won by forfeit, a tweet later deleted, but which Smyrna boys guard Ashton McCarver reacted to with a frowning devil emoji, maybe because purple is the Bulldogs’ main color? The Smyrna account deleted its tweet about the forfeit, and it’s important to note that the account is only for the boys team, and the girls team has its own account, @Smyrna_LadyDogs.

It’s not too difficult to piece together what happened: the referee used the N word, the STEM girls team walked out, and the boys team left with them, leading to the forfeit of the boys game. It’s not clear whether the girls game was also recorded as a forfeit, but it also doesn’t really matter what the initial decision was. If the referee really did that — and STEM’s walkout, and the specificity of the allegation that he said “little n****r” is pretty compelling evidence that he did — both games should be ruled no contest, and the referee never allowed anywhere near another high school basketball game.

Whether that will happen, and what kind of screening the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association does for its referees, that’s where there’s more to this than the simple WTF of it all. But good for the STEM Prep teams standing together and walking out together. Nobody should have to deal with that, and the consequence of their bravery should not be an “L” in the standings.

Smyrna High officials declined to comment, referring the matter to Rutherford County Schools, whose spokesman was out of the office on Thursday morning. Deadspin also contacted STEM Prep and the TSSAA, but did not receive a response. 

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