Eight members of a Phillipsburgh, New Jersey high school wrestling team were banned from a state tournament days after a photo surfaced of team members lynching a black wrestling dummy.
The photo features seven of the wrestlers simulating a lynching of a black wrestling dummy in a Paulsboro High School’s shirt – the school’s longtime wrestling rival. Even though 37 percent of residents of Paulsboro, New Jersey are African-American, compared to only 7.5 percent of Phillipsburgh, the boys insist the dummy’s colour had nothing to do with it – they were just trying to show school spirit.
The boys’ lawyer, speaking on behalf of the students, said:
“[W]hen we spontaneously set the scene and posed for the photograph, our sole purpose was to promote school spirit and portray our wrestling team as victor over two of our archrivals — Paulsboro High School and Kittatinny High School, and not for any other purpose.”
“In outfitting the wrestling dummy, we did not give any thought to the physical appearance of the dummy as anything other than an unidentified generic wrestler.”
“We did not intend to disparage anyone,” he continued. “We are truly sorry for any harm we may have caused.”
Their attorney also noted that the wrestling dummy in the photo is used in daily practices and, as far as they know, is only manufactured in dark leather. If there were a white dummy, they totally would have lynched him too. Or would they have chosen a non-lynching intimidation tactic? Like perhaps some sort of wrestling move… because, they’re wrestling team.
Much like the high school girls that thought it was appropriate to feature fried chicken, watermelon and cornbread for Black History Month, the boys’ action, however “innocently” it came to be, seems pretty dumb in retrospect. If they can’t understand why a photo of a bunch of white boys lynching a black dummy might be slightly offensive – especially when one of them appears to be wearing a Ku Klux Klan type hat – then that high school is doing a pretty poor job on the education front.