A high school superintendent in Glendale, Wisconsin called for a rival school to take action after one of Nicolet High School’s athletes was subjected to racist treatment during a game against Port Washington High School for the second time in two years.
The latest incident occurred Monday during a junior varsity baseball game at Port Washington, Wisconsin. A Port Washington player reached first base and in chatting with the Nicolet first baseman used the N-word in noting the Knights’ team. Caden Ellis, a freshman second baseman who is biracial, saw the exchange according to his father, KaJuan.
The last time Port Washington was involved in a racially charged incident, it was with Nicolet and it made national news. In February 2019, dozens of Port Washington students at a boys basketball game held up a photocopied image of former Nicolet standout Jalen Johnson that made it appear he was wearing blackface.
Nicolet superintendent Dr. Greg Kabara noted his district’s past problems with Port Washington in a statement released Friday. It read, in part:
“It is our hope that the Port Washington administration will take this situation seriously and demand a culture of respect and inclusion, to teach their community that racism is unacceptable and should never be tolerated.
“We are pleased that the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) will be reviewing these actions and taking appropriate measures to ensure that student-athletes are treated with respect and dignity by all people, including sports officials.
“Publicly demeaning and harassing a student is not a mistake, it’s a choice.”
In an email, Port Washington principal Thad Gabrielse said a Port Washington student informed the school of the incident Monday evening. The next morning the administration confirmed it occurred and identified the player who said it.
“The athlete remorsefully admitted to making a racial comment and has provided the Nicolet baseball community with a written apology,” Gabrielse wrote. “Port Washington High School does not tolerate racial slurs and have provided significant consequences for this player’s actions. In addition, we have and will continue to provide diversity education to this student and to all of the students at Port Washington High School.”
More specific details about the consequences the player was given were not provided. It’s unclear why the JV coach did not immediately report the incident.
Gabrielse didn’t respond to requests for further comment.
While disappointed in the behavior of the Port Washington player, KeJuan Ellis and Terry Sandee, another Nicolet parent, were frustrated more by the Port Washington coach and the umpires. They feel the Port Washington coaches had to know what was happening and should have immediately removed the player. Both said an umpire used a racially-charged derogatory term toward Caden Ellis after he briefly showed displeasure with a call after getting picked off a base. Later they watched as the home plate umpire turned away the Nicolet coach when he tried to stick up for his players.
According to Sandee, who saw the exchange between the Nicolet coach and umpire, the umpire said, “You don’t tell me what can be tolerated.”
Nicolet reported the situation and actions of the umpire to the WIAA and suspended the umpire from Nicolet athletic events. There is no word on the umpire’s status for other North Shore Conference games. League commissioner John Gustavson couldn’t be reached for comment.
The WIAA is reviewing the complaint, and if it finds cause, could reduce the umpire’s classification, remove him from tournament consideration or revoke his license.
As they watched the game Monday, Ellis and Sandee weren’t aware of the incident. They thought they were just watching Nicolet play some spirited ball.
Ellis noticed his son had a different demeanor.
“He was kind of charged up,” Ellis said. “I was like he’s got kind of a different vibe to him. I don’t know what’s going on, but I like it.”
Sandee said the players were given the option of leaving the field in protest after the racial slur or continuing to play and win the game.
“The kids were like ‘Let’s go beat them,’” Sandee said. “We had a pitcher who came in just for the last inning and he struck out the last kid and I’ve never seen this kid more amped up. In retrospect I’m like, that’s why he was crazy amped up. All the stuff that was going on that we didn’t know at the time. He walked off like an old-school pitcher. It looked like an MLB guy after a win.”
The following day a Nicolet administrator met with the team to tell the players the district was proud of how they handled the situation and that the matter would be taken seriously and addressed on multiple levels.
Ellis, meanwhile, said he appreciates how the community rallied around his son. It affirmed why he and his wife, both Nicolet graduates, chose to live in Glendale and send their children to the school.
“When so many parents come to your corner when something like that happens to your son,” he said, choking up, “it’s special and I appreciate it.”