SALT LAKE CITY — A high school lacrosse match between rival schools in Salt Lake City and Wasatch County is the subject of an investigation after an alleged use of a racial slur by at least one of the players.
The incident occurred near the end of Friday’s match between Highland and Wasatch, which the Wasps won 13-5. With about 10 seconds left, a player from Wasatch dived into the crease to score a goal and was denied by two Highland defenders, who tumbled to the ground with him.
After struggling to break free of the players’ grasp, two of the players began arguing in an altercation that turned physical while the two referees — down from the usual three that traditionally officiate lacrosse due to a statewide shortage in refs — attempted to break up the fracas.
Eventually, both benches cleared, and several bench players who were white could be heard using a racial slur directed toward the Highland player, an athlete of color, multiple parents from Highland who agreed to speak about the incident but asked not to be named individually told KSL.com.
“Let’s go after the (racial slur) on the field,” yelled one player, according to a parent.
Coaches from both schools were also involved in the fight, but it appears they were trying to break it up, according to video of the incident provided to KSL.com. The players were upset and angry that the incident could occur “without consequences,” according to a father whose son plays for the Rams.
Highland (5-8) was on a five-game losing streak one year after the inaugural season of lacrosse was sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association. The Rams will host senior night in the final match of the regular season Tuesday against Skyline.
The win was the first in four games for the Wasps (8-6), who capped the regular season with a 15-7 win over Springville. Both teams will participate in the all-comers UHSAA state tournament, divided into three classifications by RPI, beginning Saturday at home sites.
Representatives from the UHSAA told KSL.com that the organization is aware of the incident, but referred further questions to the individual schools and districts.
“Both schools began working together immediately that evening to investigate the issue,” UHSAA assistant director Jon Oglesby said.
KSL.com has reached out to representatives from both schools, as well as the Salt Lake City and WasatchCounty school districts, but has not received a response.
Highland principal Jeremy Chatterton told KPCW radio he hopes to get to the bottom of the issue.
“Obviously, if students felt as though this is what they heard, then this is something that we would really address and make sure that we put the proper channels in for them to be able to have the support that they would need,” said Chatterton, who was not at the match. “But right now we’re really just in the preliminary investigative stages of what was going on.”
The incident caught the attention of the Black Lives Matter group in Utah, which posted a video of the altercation on Facebook and said it had received civil rights complaints related to the incident. The organization called out the “racist parents at Wasatch” on its page in a separate post.
“Shut your racist mouths and realize that you can no longer mess with Black children. Stop being racist FULL STOP,” the statement read, which was posted Tuesday. “Stop victim blaming and stop hoping that your bullying behavior that you have taught your children will somehow back us down. This state is done bullying Black children and if you mess with Black children Black Lives Matter will come for you.”
The post ended with an obscenity that KSL.com has chosen not to publish.
This is a developing story. We’re working on gathering more information, and will update it accordingly.