An estimated 100 students, former players and adults rallied outside of Whitmer High School in Toledo, Ohio, Sunday night to show their support for embattled basketball coach Bruce Smith. Schools officials and the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are investigating allegations from five families that Smith has made racially insensitive remarks - such as calling African-American players "monkeys" - and divided the team by race in practice drills.
"When we'd run, he'd split up the black and white kids, and he'd make the biracial kids decide which team to be on. He'd make us choose," Chris Wormley, a junior whose mother is white and father is black, told The Toledo Blade. "During two or three practices, he'd say, 'Blacks over here and whites over there.' I just thought it was kind of stupid. I went to the black side. I didn't really think about it at the time. He's a smart guy in basketball, but the things he says and does aren't right."
During Sunday night's rally, the paper reports today, a group of female students, both black and white, chanted the coach's name while broadcast news crews recorded it. "I have coached with him and I know him personally as a friend. He's not a racist. I can tell you that," said Ernie Miller, who is black and has been a youth basketball coach in Toledo for years. "It's a lynch mob. … It's a sad day."
Smith, who led Whitmer to the state's final four in 2008, told reporters that he is not a "racist," adding that he was instructed not to comment further.