Prior to Brunswick High School's first game of the season last week, Rodney Axson, Jr. took a knee during the national anthem after allegedly hearing his teammates referring to their opponents as the n-word in the locker room just before the team took the field.
Black students bravely take a knee and get called "niggers" by their white teammates.
Video by @cleveland19news pic.twitter.com/RcqWPaVagl
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) September 12, 2016
"It was a few players in the locker room saying we're going to use the N-word with a hard 'R' tonight," Axson's father, Rodney Axson Sr., told CBS Cleveland. "They didn't know my son was in the locker room. At that time, he came from where he was at in the locker room and approached the guys and said, 'Excuse me, what do you mean by that?' They said, 'This don't include you. You're from Brunswick.' He said, 'I'm African-American, it does include me. I appreciate if y'all didn't say that.'"
According to the 2010 Census, Brunswick is 96% white and only 1.2% black. And as the New York Daily News points out, Axson is one of only three black players on his team.
Later, Axson told CBS Cleveland that he received threats of lynching and racial slurs on Snapchat and other social platforms. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported Axson also received racist texts.
"Say all you want about me I don't care, I will continue to sit, I will continue to be myself even if it makes me a 'nigger,' I will continue to pray to God at night that racism ends," Axson wrote in a statement on Twitter.
The Daily News reported that a note posted in a Snapchat message sent to Axson, which reads "Let's lynch niggers" and includes four instances of the n-word, was partly written by two teammates of Axson, who have since been suspended. No one, however, has confessed to writing the "lynch" part, specifically.
Brunswick City Schools Superintendent Michael Mayell denounced the social media postings in a statement issued to CBS Cleveland, and announced that the school was cooperating with law enforcement to investigate the incidents further.
We are still investigating various incidents of inappropriate and racially motivated conduct by students at Brunswick High School. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement as well. As such, we will not comment further until such time as we have a reasonable grasp on all the facts.
However, let me say that a statement which has circulated on social media connected with this investigation is reprehensible and I am deeply disappointed that any of our students would participate in its publication. Racial slurs and hate speech have no place in the Brunswick schools and those found complicit in such misconduct will be dealt with accordingly. This is a statement I have never even conceived that I might need to release. I am saddened to have to do so.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.