Football players from an Arlington County high school say opponents from a Fairfax County school spit on them and used racial slurs during a game, which some families of the Fairfax students deny.
The March 5 game between Arlington's Wakefield High School and Fairfax County's Marshall High School ended in a brawl.
After the final play, Wakefield player Lukas Hatcher says a Marshall player spit at him.
Wakefield teammates said white Marshall players called them racial slurs throughout the game. The players said they repeatedly told the referees about the racial slurs and spitting.
“We got no response, so I, personally, really do blame the adults for letting this get to this situation," Wakefield teammate Izaiah Lang said.
In a letter to families, Wakefield’s principal said, "The adults who were responsible failed them. I also informed them that in the future, all coaches have been instructed to leave the field or court immediately if our student-athletes are subject to racist, bigoted behaviors."
In a statement to News4 on Thursday, a Fairfax County schools spokesperson said, "We are working with all families involved in this matter, school leadership, FCPS' regional office, FCPS' Chief Equity Officer, and the coaches from both teams to develop a plan for restorative justice."
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Three players from each school have been suspended for one game, but Wakefield parents are angry their players are facing the same suspension as the Marshall players.
On Friday, two Marshall parents who worked the first down chains on the Wakefield sideline the night of the game spoke to News4.
They said the only racial slur they heard was from a Wakefield player who was then penalized by the referee for using that language.
The superintendents from both Fairfax County Public Schools and Arlington Public Schools have released a joint statement: "We will be working together to repair the harm done, to support our students and families and ensure we are fostering an environment both on and off the field where this kind of incident cannot happen again. Together, we ask the VHSL [Virginia High School League] to join us in urging change to include mandatory diversity and inclusion training for high school athletes, coaches and officials."
Hatcher's mother, Lydia Hatcher, said suspensions from sports aren't justice, that justice is behavioral change and educating the kids involved.
She said when her sons leave their home, she worries they won't make it back. She said she never thought she would fear for them while participating in school sports.
"There's no safe space for a Black male,” she said. “There's no place where he can expect to be treated equal or be respected. One of the most disrespectful things you can do to anybody is spit on them. That's the most disrespectful and vile thing you could ever do."
She said years from now, none of the students will remember what the score of that game was, but they'll remember how they were treated.
News4 reached out to the Virginia High School League, who says it takes allegations of racism seriously and is investigating the incident.