The day before its homecoming victory over Trumbull, Greenwich’s became embroiled in controversy when a Trumbull freshman parent protested the Greenwich freshman team’s use of ‘Hitler’ as a name of a play shift call during a Thursday game vs. her son’s team.
The name of the shift had been installed for years, according to the Connecticut Post, which first reported the story Friday afternoon.
In addition to referencing the Nazi Germany dictator, there was also a call which referred to Stalin, the former Soviet Union dictator. Both were responsible for vast atrocities in during the 1930s and 40s. Hitler orchestrated the Holocaust, the systematic murder of over six million Jewish people during World War II.
Greenwich officials reacted quickly and strongly to the incident on Friday. Greenwich High School Headmaster Chris Winters apologized publicly on the school’s website “for this admittedly offensive practice,” and the school apologized to the towns’ Jewish Communities and to the Anti-Defamation League, the Post reported.
[aesop_document type=”pdf” src=”http://www.gametimect.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/GREENWICH-HIGH-SCHOOL-FOOTBALL-ISSUE-UPDATE.pdf” caption=”GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL ISSUE STATEMENT”]
As of Monday, the school released an expanded apology, which included an explantation that it wasn’t a play call, as originally reported in Connecticut Post, but a play shift. Hitler was used to go to the right, Stalin was used to go to the left — a reference to the despots’ ideologies.
“This is not an excuse, only an explanation,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Salvatore J. Corda said in the statement. “It was a bad decision because of its insensitivity. But it is also important to understand that these were not slurs that were directed at anyone. It was an inappropriate use of names that have a horrific history attached to them and we should have been mindful of that. Our coaches should know better and it should never have happened.”
Corda announced the school would hold school assemblies on Oct. 20 explaining to its students why the terminology was inappropriate. He also said the athletic department would be conducting various sensitivity training for all of its students and coaches.
“We have also taken appropriate action holding the coach accountable,” he said, referring to freshman coach James Briggs.
Corda did not specify what that was.
Greenwich coach John Marinelli issued a statement accepting full responsibility.
“I apologize to the community for my insensitivity in using such inappropriate terminology in describing the direction of a football play. Please know that no disrespect or offense was intended in any way. My mission has always been and will continue to be one of building character in our young athletes, realizing their potential as caring and respectful citizens. I take full responsibility for this issue and will use this situation as an opportunity to learn from this myself and to impress upon the team and my coaches the importance of being respectful in our words and deeds. Again, my sincerest apologies to the entire community.”
Community leaders regarded the incident as a teachable moment, according to Connecticut Post.
“We should accept Chris’ apology on behalf of the Greenwich community,” Rabbi Mitchell M. Hurvitz of Temple Sholom in Greenwich told Connecticut Post on Friday. “And, we should follow up our remorse with a renewed collective dedication to assure that we all are leading lives consistent to our own dedication to living up to our potential goodness as human beings.”
Greenwich High School shared an email from Debbie Levison, the Trumbull parent who first brought the incident to the attention of the school, thanking Dr. Winters and Dr. Corda for their response.
I want to commend you and express my gratitude for your prompt response to a delicate situation. I heard from Steve Ginsburg [Director, Connecticut Region of the Anti-Defamation League] that you spoke beautifully today and I’m sure that your message was well-received. Please also convey my thanks to [the coach]. I understand that he took full responsibility and I feel certain that his apologies were most sincere.
“My hope is that [the coach] doesn’t experience unnecessary repercussions as a result of these events. This certainly is not a witch hunt. My objective was to raise awareness of an offensive practice, change it moving forward, and educate the kids and staff. I believe all of that has been accomplished.”
Read more: Greenwich football players called out for ‘Hitler’ play — Connecticut Post