A Black football player at a northwest Illinois high school is seen on video sitting down in a locker littered with banana peels after a teammate threatens to break his knees if he doesn’t comply.
Moline Police Chief Darren Gault called the incident at Moline High School a “disturbing racist scene.” Detectives interviewed student athletes, coaches and staff members over the weekend and turned their findings over to prosecutors, Gault said.
The investigation centers on an 11-second video clip in which another player, whose hand can be seen but face doesn’t appear, threatens the Black player to sit in the locker “or I’ll break both your knees.” When the player sits down, others can be heard shouting, “Yeah!”
Gault said the investigation determined the people involved were teammates “of both different and similar races to the victim.” He also said all players involved have been identified.
“Regardless of these facts, we all agree that this is a disgusting way to treat a fellow teammate, a fellow human being and most certainly a friend,” Gault said.
According to published reports, the video was shot Thursday and authorities learned of it after it was posted on social media and widely viewed in the community Friday night. Teams around the state had their season delayed until the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Moline team played an away game Friday night. When the players arrived back at the school shortly before midnight, detectives were there to speak to them.
The Moline-Coal Valley School District said it would conduct its own investigation of the incident to determine if there were any school code violations or violations of district polices.
“The vile behavior depicted in the video does not represent our core values and has no place in our learning community,” school district spokeswoman Candace Sountris said in a statement. “Clearly, we have work to do. Decisive action will be taken upon the conclusion of both the law enforcement and the school district’s internal investigation.”
Moline Mayor-elect Sangeetha Rayapati, who is also the school board chair, said in a statement that adults have “a responsibility to hold individuals involved in this incident accountable.”
“I speak from the heart when I say we have a responsibility to teach them a better way. It’s awful to know a child was treated that way. It’s awful to know that that child will be marked forever by the incident and the disrespect they received. And it’s awful to know other children would see this as a joke,” she said.