Ardrey Kell’s and West Charlotte’s state quarterfinal matchup hasn’t been without controversy. First, the state’s athletic association announced that the game, which was originally scheduled to be held at West Charlotte, would be moved to a neutral site (Vance High School) to accommodate more fans. Then, it was announced that one of Ardrey Kell’s best players would be suspended for using a racial slur. That’s a lot of drama surrounding a high school playoff game and the racial undertones are glaring.
West Charlotte, a predominately black high school, has its home court advantage stripped away and Ardrey Kell, a predominately white high school, ultimately ends up the beneficiary. Add to that the fact that a Knights’ player is being suspended for saying that he’s “bout to go f*ck some more n*ggers in the hood,” and that’s enough to distract most adults, let along high school students. But the Lions’ team-mom, AJ Jernigan, says that the squad is using everything to fuel their fire.
“Our players are resilient and that stems from the parents and the household that they’re brought up in. So this has done nothing but motivate them to continue to keep going. There’s been several games where we were doubted coming in, but our boys have been resilient and continued to play and they’ve grown and built what they now have. And no one can take that away from them.”
The attention this matchup has gotten has spurred a social media campaign where alumni have posted in support of the team.
“What was negative has now turned into positive,” Jernigan continued. “We’ve already nominated this as a West Charlotte day and through that negative remains a positive forever and unfortunately, we have to thank Ardrey Kell for that. We have to thank the state for taking us out of our home and putting us in an environment that we didn’t earn. We earned the right to play at home.”
When I asked Ms Jernigan about the Ardrey Kell player who was suspended for the game, she admitted that it’s tough for her, because as a parent she understands the sacrifice parents make so that their children can pursue their passion, but she was very clear that this should be used as a lesson.
“I hope Lucas and his family have learned from this behavior and I pray that this is not ongoing conversation and not welcomed behavior in their home. Because Lucas today is Lucas the district attorney later…is Lucas the governor later. So if we do not correct it today, we will be forced to deal with this again.”
The Ardrey Kell student’s parents have released a statement apologizing for their son’s behavior.
“As a family,” they wrote, “we are devastated and so is (the player). While we stand by our son, and love him deeply, we do recognize the wrong and hurt caused by careless words. We do not believe his words represent who he is as a person, his overall character and his heart towards others. ”
You can read the entire statement here.
At 7pm tonight when that ball is tipped in the air, the game of basketball will have the final say and the Lions will have all the fuel they need.