2017-10-18 / Front Page / JT Beacon

WHS investigating allegations of racism at football game

By PAT McDONALD

Sports Editor

WELLS — The Wells High School football team turned in an impressive performance last Friday night as the Warriors cruised to a 36-6 win over the previously undefeated Lisbon Greyhounds. It seemed to be another great night for the Wells program, which won a state title last season and is the favorite to capture another Gold Ball this fall.

While the outcome on the field might have been good for the Warriors, the atmosphere surrounding the action on the gridiron has come into question as a mother of a Lisbon player has accused the school district and its fans of creating a hostile and racist environment.

Amelia Tuplin and her son, Lisbon quarterback Lucas Francis, are full-blooded Mi’kmaq Indians and Tuplin wrote a letter to Wells Superintendent Jim Daly expressing outrage over what she called “the display of racism, ignorance and mockery that took place at the Wells High School football game on Friday, October 13, 2017.”

According to the letter, which was published in its entirety on www.wjbq.com, Tuplin says she witnessed members of the Wells community — both adults and students — banging on fake drums, singing mock chants, performing mock dances and “continuously making hand over mouth sounds.”

“Your team, students and spectators mocked our families heritage,” Tuplin wrote. “It was the most ultimate display of racism on the largest scale I’ve ever seen. A quick search on social media will bring up hundreds of photos to prove my case.”

Daly received the email Monday morning from Tuplin, and immediately began to try and figure out what had gone on and how to address the allegations.

“You try to dissect it and it’s pretty alarming when you read it. It’s a pretty serious allegation pointed toward the community, the student body and the school, so we took it pretty serious,” said Daly. “From that point on we brought in administrators, we brought in personnel to talk about the letter and talk about what our gameplan is going forward to make sure that we do our diligence in our investigation and make sure we find the facts.”

In a rare occurrence, Daly was not in attendance on Friday night.

“In the 11 years I’ve been here, I don’t think I’ve missed more than two games. It was just one of those games that I just happened to miss,” said Daly.

Without being there to witness the events himself, Daly started a large-scale investigation once he received the letter from Tuplin.

“When somebody makes an allegation such as Ms. Tuplin has made, it’s our diligence to talk to every school stakeholder. We have interviewed tens of people in the last 24 hours and that will continue until we get to the bottom of all of this,” said Daly, who explained that his staff has been determined not to miss anything or anyone during this investigation.

“We have interviewed everybody. We’re looking at surveillance tapes. We’re looking at security cameras. We’ve interviewed the police officers, there was four police officers at the game ... we’ve talked to the game officials, our athletic director has talked to visiting coaches. Our administrators have interviewed the folks who were at the game, the president of the booster club, the folks that work in the concession stand, the reporters that were at the game representing the local news feeds,” Daly said.

One allegation that Daly found surprising was the accusation that using the “fake drums” to make noise was racially motivated.

“I think if you reach out to the nearby high schools I think it’s pretty predominant in all the schools. High school students bang the five-gallon drums to make noise ... it’s a noise maker,” Daly said.

The allegations will certainly bring up the argument that high schools should not be using mascots related to Native Americans, but Tuplin stated in her letter that she has no problem with the Wells mascot as long as the name “Warriors” is treated with respect.

“Prior to the game, I was well aware of your Warriors mascot and logo, which I did not find offensive, at the time. When tastefully used, with an appropriate display of homage used, Tribal Mascots would make one feel proud, proud to be Native, proud to be a Warrior,” Tuplin wrote. “This is not the case for Wells High School. You made a mockery of my culture. Your chants, fake drums, war paint, dance and hand over mouth sounds were embarrassing to watch and hurtful. This behavior is culturally insensitive, distasteful, and downright racist. To say the least I was ashamed and disappointed in your school for allowing and encouraging this type of racial mockery by your staff, students, fans, players (and) coaches.”

Tuplin later explained that she is simply trying to educate people on the subject.

“My goal is to bring this to light, to as many people as possible. Your mascot is offensive, simply because of the way you represent it. I’m asking your mockery to stop immediately. Educate yourself on our culture, be classy and show some respect,” Tuplin said. “Paint a true picture of our culture. Fill your students minds and hearts with the truth, stop encouraging false depictions of how natives behave and celebrate, it comes off as hateful and racist. You’re promoting a false image of Natives. This is what your graduates are taking with them into an already world full of hate.”

Daly said that while he understands the topic of changing school mascots will come up in the near future, his focus is solely on addressing the allegations that have been made against Wells High School and the community as a whole.

“There are really two issues brought up in the letter by Ms. Tuplin, the first issue is the allegations. We are working to bullet-by-bullet address all the allegations made by Ms. Tuplin and to fact-find,” said Daly. “The second issue is the mascot issue. My answer to that question is that’s a community issue, and that’s an issue that the community of Wells and Ogunquit need to make a determination of what they want to do. Do they want to keep the mascot? And that discussion will be brought forward to the community going forward ... right now our focus of course is on the allegations made by Ms. Tuplin.”

Daly believes in the future there will most likely be a discussion on whether Wells should keep the mascot.

“At some point, I would make the assumption that there’s going to be a community forum. That’s for the community to decide and we’re not at that stage right now. Our immediate attention right now are on the allegations that were made towards our school and the communities of both Wells and Ogunquit,” Daly said.

Daly has reached out to Tuplin but as of Tuesday afternoon had not received a response.

— Sports Editor Pat McDonald can be reached at pmcdonald@journaltribune.com or at 282-1535 ext. 322. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.

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