Prep Insider Blog

Ardrey Kell suspends basketball player before West Charlotte game for using racial slur

One night before Ardrey Kell High is scheduled to play West Charlotte in a state quarterfinal boys basketball game, the Knights have removed one of their top players for using a racial slur on social media.

The Ardrey Kell player, who is 17 and white, used the slur in a post on Snapchat, a social media app where posts usually disappear shortly after they are created. The player’s post was captured in a screenshot and shared across different social media platforms Monday.

In the post, the player uses the slur in referring to West Charlotte.

Responding to an Observer inquiry via text, Ardrey Kell coach Mike Craft said the school found the player’s post Monday night.

“A very swift and appropriate decision was reached to immediately suspend the player indefinitely,” Craft said. “The player will not be with the team or at the game (Tuesday). The individual comments that were made are not representative of the values of our program, the AK school community, or the expectations we have of our student-athletes. No further comment at this time until our administration and athletic department has an opportunity to look into the situation further.”

The parents of the Ardrey Kell player also provided a statement to the Observer:

“As a family,” they wrote, “we are devastated and so is (the player). While we stand by our son, and love him deeply, we do recognize the wrong and hurt caused by careless words. We do not believe his words represent who he is as a person, his overall character and his heart towards others. Being part of a diverse community is significant to our values as a family, but it is clear from today, that there are more conversations to be had as today’s words don’t reflect the tone of our home nor (the) true heart of our son.

“(The player) is ashamed and deeply sorrowful for his word choice. He has met with his teammates, coaches, and principal and personally apologized. And for the many who (he) will never get to speak to regarding today, he is sorry.

“There is no excuse for words like this. (He) is firmly aware of that and holds himself accountable for his careless action. We as a family, stand by his suspension, and believe firmly that (the player), our family, and prayerfully, our entire community will grow from this.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said Tuesday it continues to investigate the matter and further disciplinary steps may be taken against the Kell basketball player.

“Champions rises to inspire greatness by doing their best, not by bringing others down,” the statement from Chief Communications Officer Tracy Russ said in part. “Racist, Racist behavior and actions are repugnant to educational ideals, contrary to CMS and community values, and will not be tolerated within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools ... The district asks students, families and the community to give the student athletes of West Charlotte and Ardrey Kell the support and respect they have earned and deserve.”

There have already been tensions about this game after the N.C. High School Athletic Association made West Charlotte move the game to Vance due to limited seating at West Charlotte. The game will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Some West Charlotte supporters were outraged that the school couldn’t play the game on campus, some believing the change was made along socioeconomic and racial lines.

This the second time an athletic event has been plagued by racial slurs hurled by Audrey Kell students. During a 2017 football game against Hough High, Ardrey Kell principal David Switzer cleared the Kell student section for unruly behavior that included shouting racial threats at a black middle school student.

“Black boy, you better watch your back! Black boy, you better keep your head on a swivel,” some of the students chanted at a visiting Community House Middle School student during the Kell-Hough game.

Switzer said at the time that he punished those who could be identified as responsible for the behavior, which included showing up at the game drunk or high, and spitting on and throwing things at their own band members.

In response, faculty at Kell and West Charlotte arranged “West Kell,” a one-day exchange between students at the two schools, where participants say they found as many similarities as differences.

The exchange “made me realize just how badly segregated our schools are,” West Charlotte student Christina Alsbrooks said at the time. “It’s really sad. ... I just feel it’s not preparing you for the real world, because the whole world is not black and the whole world is not white.

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Langston Wertz Jr. is an award-winning sports journalist who has worked at the Observer since 1988. He’s covered everything from Final Fours and NFL to video games and Britney Spears. Wertz -- a West Charlotte High and UNC grad -- is the rare person who can answer “Charlotte,” when you ask, “What city are you from.”
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