Coaches suspended over blackface costumes

NEED TO KNOW
  • San Diego school staffers dressed as Jamaican characters from 1993 movie 'Cool Runnings' for Halloween party
  • Players say they laughed about Facebook photo; NAACP official says it's no laughing matter
Coaches suspended over blackface costumes

Three high school staffers in San Diego, California, are being suspended for photos posted on Facebook, showing them in blackface at a Halloween party, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten announced Friday.

The men -- Serra High School football coach Brian Basteyns, assistant football coach Howard Seeley and a teacher who has not yet been identified -- were dressed as members of the Jamaican bobsled team from the 1993 Disney movie, "Cool Runnings."

"The situation at Serra High School where staff posted pictures in insensitive costumes does not reflect the values of our district or our schools," Marten said.

Marten said the employees have indicated that they will not challenge the suspensions.

READ MORE: Too far? Blackface Trayvon costume stuns the Internet

"They are very regretful for the incident and express they never meant any malicious intent to any person or group of persons," Marten said. "They have expressed a deep sense of remorse for the impact of their actions. They send their apologies to any person or group of people they have offended and want to make it clear it was not their intention to offend anyone."

Lei-Chala Wilson, president of the NAACP's San Diego branch, said the organization began a campaign in 1950 to stop blackface, a form of theatrical makeup used by white actors, which perpetuated offensive stereotypes of African-Americans. Wilson said the use of blackface dehumanized African-Americans.

"We are happy with the result, the decision that the superintendent has made and we hope that it's a teachable moment that people realize that blackface is not funny and we hope we don't have to address this issue again next year or at another time," Wilson said.

READ MORE: Blackface: America's new teachable moment

Two African-American players defended the coaches and the photos. 

"I laughed. It was kind of a joke," team captain Richard Price told HLN affiliate KGTV. "But at the same time, I can see why people are blowing it out of proportion."

KGTV also talked with football player Xavier Miller, who had played for Basteyns and Seeley for four years. He laughed when he saw a photo of the coaches and said he was not offended. He said the coaches want the players to be good role models on and off the field.

"They always tell us good morals," Miller said. "We always have to represent Serra football when we're outside of Serra."

The controversy comes more than a week after former "Dancing With the Stars" pro Julianne Hough donned blackface for a Beverly Hills party. She showed up dressed as an "Orange is the New Black" character, wearing an orange jumpsuit, her hair in knots and her skin covered in dark makeup.

Do you think the staffers should have been suspended? Do you feel offended by the use of blackface? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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