PORTSMOUTH — As the country addresses racism in professional sports, the Portsmouth City Council is considering calling on the Ohio High School Athletics Administration to take on this issue at school sporting events in the state. In council’s Monday session, the “Resolution Opposing Racism at School Athletic Events” was moved to a first reading in a unanimous vote for the next meeting.
Councilmen Sean Dunne and Edwin Martel held conversations with Portsmouth High School administrators, revealing student-athletes were victims of racist actions and taunts at games.
Listening to these students’ accounts was reason enough to push for this change, said the first and 5th Ward council members.
“Hearing some of the stories they had to share was just appalling,” said Dunne. “At the same time, I was very impressed with the type of leaders in the Portsmouth High School system.”
City Manager Sam Sutherland drafted the legislation after these meetings.
“No student at Portsmouth High School, or any high school in the State of Ohio, should be subjected to racist statements and behaviors,” wrote Sutherland.
Council wants the OHSAA to base its policies similar to FIFA’s 2019 Disciplinary Code. Under the code, referees have the ability to force a team to forfeit a game if they use discriminatory language.
“There is no language in the OHSAA bylaws that speak about racism specifically,” said Dunne, during an executive council session.
Legislation does exist for unsportsmanlike conduct, accounting for celebrations and language, which he feels has failed to represent racial incidences.
Dunne projects OHSAA referees will need training in how to spot these incidents. Noting that referees may not hear or see these moments at-first, he would like the administration to review video footage in its enforcement of the bylaws.
It is the hope of the Dunne and Martel that, by passing this resolution, other local governments and school districts in the state will follow suit to encourage swift action by the OHSAA.
Council will bring the resolution and other pieces of legislation to its next meeting Monday, Aug. 10. The meeting will be aired on Facebook, not open to public attendance due to the coronavirus.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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