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One day before its state semifinal contest, Grassfield's boys soccer team was dealing with allegations that some of its players had used racial slurs toward opposing players in the region final against C.D. Hylton.
And while parents of opposing players disagreed about what led to the ejection of a Hylton player, the Virginia High School League issued Grassfield a sportsmanship warning.
Last Friday, the Grizzlies beat Hylton to win the program's first region title. In that game, a black Hylton player was ejected after he pushed a Grassfield player, according to a letter of appeal filed by Hylton with the VHSL.
The ejection meant the Hylton player, senior Austin Black, will have to sit out his team's state semifinal.
Hylton officials sent the letter requesting that Black be allowed to keep playing. Among the arguments in the letter, which was posted on the website InsideNoVa when it broke the story Tuesday, was that Grassfield's Michael Abraham - who is white - provoked Black by using a racial slur. It also alleges that a video shows the Grassfield player, who received a yellow card, hit and punched Black during the incident.
The letter further says Abraham, a senior midfielder, used racial slurs against other Hylton players later in the game, and that two other Hylton players complained throughout the game of being called "porch monkey" and "monkey" by multiple Grassfield players.
Abraham's father, Kevin, did not address the allegations that Grassfield's players used racial slurs. But he disputed that his son struck Black.
"There is a description of a video they have where they describe Michael hitting their player, and I can tell you there is a video of what happens that shows their description is totally inaccurate," Kevin Abraham said. "We have a video that is clear as day. And there were comments made by their fans after the game about approaching our players and things like, 'We're gonna get that player,' were said.
"I want to make sure that this thing doesn't take away from what the kids have done on the field this season."
Black's father, Reginald Black, said he thought his son clearly was responding to the Grassfield player's actions.
"This is not what high school sports is about," Black said. "This is a form of racism, a form of bullying."
Chesapeake Public Schools officials declined requests for interviews Wednesday. They released a statement that said, "After an investigation by our staff, we found no evidence to indicate the referee's decision should be changed. The VHSL will need to address the appeal."
The VHSL denied the appeal, but in a statement said Grassfield's boys soccer team "was guilty of a separate sportsmanship violation."
The league issued an official warning, effectively putting the team on probation for one year.
"A warning is official notice that an inexcusable, unethical or unsportsmanlike action has occurred, is a matter of record, and that such an occurrence must not be repeated," the statement said.
Hylton plays T.C. Williams in its state semifinal match at 7 tonight at Robinson Secondary in Fairfax. That game will follow Grassfield's semifinal against Washington-Lee at 5 p.m.
Grassfield and Hylton could meet in Saturday's state championship game.
CPS spokeswoman Kellie Goral declined to say whether any Grizzlies players are suspended or otherwise disciplined for today's game.
Staff writer Lee Tolliver contributed to this story. Mike Connors, 757-222-5217, firstname.lastname@example.org