Andrew Ewald, athletic director for St. Louis Park (Minn.) High School, sent a letter to New Prague High School athletic director Brad Skogerboe informing him that Park will no longer compete in any sports with the New Prague following a racist incident at a boys' hockey game Feb. 15.
As reported by Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE, New Prague players allegedly called a St. Louis Park player a monkey and used other racist references during the game.
Ewald's letter reads:
"After much processing and conversation with our stakeholders and leaders, most importantly our students, I am informing you that I have made the decision that St. Louis Park High School will not compete directly with New Prague High School as a result of the racist experience our boys hockey program was subjected to on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at New Prague. My decision was also influenced by the other incidents of racism involving New Prague High School athletics in the last month involving other conference schools.
"This decision not to compete will last at least through the 2022 spring season and is open-ended after that, and will continue until the harm that was caused is repaired and we are assured that any of our stakeholders, most importantly our students, will not be victimized by racism by any New Prague stakeholder in the future. We also plan to remove the New Prague banner from our gymnasium until the harm is repaired and assurances are to our liking.
"Please know that I do not take this decision lightly. As I said when New Prague High School was applying to the Metro West Conference, 'I will not stand for your community and students to have teachable moments at the expense of our students.' Therefore, I will not tolerate or allow our students to further experience any racism while participating in athletics against New Prague High School."
After receiving the letter, New Prague superintendent Tim Dittberner responded to KARE with the following statement:
"St. Louis Park school has made the decision to not compete with New Prague Area Schools for the remainder of this school year due to a racial incident during the boys hockey game a week ago. We do not tolerate racist or hate speech by students or athletic players. We know the hurt this causes. The incident was dealt with immediately. We sincerely apologize for this incident and make no excuses for the behavior. We are taking steps to work with our athletes, student body, staff and coaches so these types of incidents do not happen in the future. We will be sharing more specific information about these steps at a future date."
This was not the first allegation of racism against New Prague, according to KARE. On the same day as the hockey game, a coach for the Cooper High School girls' basketball team reported that black players were targeted with monkey sounds and other taunts from people in the stands at New Prague High School.
Anthony Williams, who oversees athletics for Cooper High School and the entire Robbinsdale School District, spoke to KARE reporter Kent Erdahl about the district's own response to the incident and how it is supporting affected players.
Erdahl: "I just wanted to start by asking, how are those student athletes doing?"
Williams: "They're doing well. Last week was a little bit of a different story. After the incident, our coaches took some time to meet with the young ladies and also with students in the building throughout the day, to sort of really focus on healing. Giving them a space to speak. Our community has really rallied behind the students. We had community members reach out and show support and solidarity on social media, and then we had a game on Friday. Our girls played against Orono on Friday and they showed up in solidarity. Everybody wore orange to support the Cooper Hawks girls and Orono supported that and family members came out and community members came out and supported the girls."
Erdahl: "Today we saw the St. Louis Park athletic director take another step, saying they're not going to be competing with New Prague any time soon. Is that something that has been, discussed in Robbinsdale?"
Williams: "Right now, we know that New Prague has an ongoing investigation into the incident with Robbinsdale and we're waiting to see how New Prague sort of responds to what our concerns are and we're still determining what our next steps will be. I can't speak to what New Prague should do. It seems that, moving forward, you always want to talk about sort of the consequences for specific actions, but I really think it's time for everyone to pause and really reflect on what we say and how we treat one another, especially our youngest in society."