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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Martinez: Racial incident at soccer match a call to stand up, be better

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: March 29, 2022, 5:40pm

No one likes to talk about racial tension, especially in sports.

Players just want to play. Coaches want to coach. And we just want to report on the games.

But there comes a time when you have to stop the game and have a serious discussion.

And most importantly, you have to be willing to listen.

“I understand trash talk,” Seton Catholic boys soccer coach Antonio Buckley said. “It happens. It’s part of the game. But there is just a line that you don’t cross that happens to be crossed a lot.”

That line was trampled upon last Thursday when Seton played at King’s Way Christian. In the 62nd minute, voices from within King’s Way’s rooting section made “monkey noises” at Seton’s David Moore, who is Black, while Moore was attempting a penalty kick.

Buckley didn’t hear the noises from the sideline on the opposite side of the field. He was made aware of the incident later that evening, and his first reaction might seem a little odd at first, and also a little sad.

“There was a part of me that just wanted to move on,” said Buckley, who is also Black. “It’s sad, but in the game of soccer, it’s almost normal. But when I listened again, I started remembering all the incidents that I had playing soccer in high school, playing in college and coaching. I mean, I’ve been called the N-word more times in a soccer game than I ever have been walking on the street.”

Buckley said there are very few Black soccer players in this country in relation to the general population. And in the Pacific Northwest, there are even fewer.

“Sometimes you might be the only one on the field,” said Buckley, who grew up in Portland. “So when those things happen to us, there is no one to go to. And no one speaks up. So it starts the vicious cycle of being disrespectful to players who look different.”

But after listening again to the incident, hearing how blatant it was and how intentional it was, Buckley decided it was time to do something.

The brazen behavior and the confidence displayed by those responsible for the taunts is disturbing.

But also concerning is the only thing that can be heard on the video after the taunts were the cheers of the Seton fans on the successful penalty kick.

“One of the big issues here is it happened in their crowd, and no one said anything,” Buckley said.

After the video made its rounds on social media on Friday, King’s Way Christian superintendent Dr. Jason Tindol released a public apology to Moore on behalf of the King’s Way community.

He also added that an initial investigation “confirmed that the offensive noises did not come from King’s Way students.”

Some feel that this absolves King’s Way of culpability. Buckley is not so sure.

“We don’t know who it was … but they’re saying it was a kid who used to go their school,” Buckley said. “So ‘he’s not a part of us. It’s not our problem.’ But actually it is. I mean, if he went to your school, he was educated there. And the moment that he stepped back into your environment, he felt safe to act like that.”

Moore and the Seton program have received an outpouring of support from a variety of sources. On Monday, Portland Timbers player Zac McGraw, who is Black, came out to practice to speak to the team about racial issues and show his support for Moore.

Buckley said Tina Ellertson, who is Black, also reached out and asked to speak to the team. Ellertson is a former U.S. women’s national team player who spent five years as the girls soccer coach at King’s Way and now is an assistant at the University of Washington.

Her daughter, MacKenzie Ellertson, has been another vocal supporter. MacKenzie Ellertson is a 2019 King’s Way Christian graduate who is studying and playing soccer at Washington State.

Moore, in statement released last weekend, said he hoped the incident could serve to help educate people how to treat people with love and respect.

MacKenzie Ellertson agreed, but with a caveat.

“I think this is a great opportunity for King’s Way to educate their students on race and injustices like these,” Ellertson tweeted. “In my 14 years at that school, not once was I educated on race issues besides slavery.”

Let’s get a couple of things clear. I believe the people within the King’s Way community are good people. I believe they do not condone the behavior that was exhibited in their stands last Thursday. I believe they agree with Moore’s assessment that it was “unacceptable and disgusting.”

I also believe the school has been unfairly draped in some ugly blanket statements from those upset by what happened to David Moore.

This issue goes beyond King’s Way Christian. It goes beyond Seton Catholic. You’re fooling yourself if you think it couldn’t have happened at your school.

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We have heard of several reported cases of racial taunts from all around the region. It’s just that this one was captured so clearly.

An incident like this should make us strive to be better people, each individual one of us.

Can I listen better? Can I strive to have a better understanding of other people’s experiences? Can I have the courage to stand up to injustice whenever and wherever it arises? Can I help work to seek a solution?

So I stand with David Moore and Seton Catholic.

And I stand with King’s Way Christian.

Because if we don’t stand together, we remain apart.

And that vicious circle keeps spinning.