Warrensburg High School boys basketball lost to the Center Yellowjackets at home Monday, 66-62.
During the game, a video of Center’s starting roster introductions surfaced on Facebook, and earned more than 2,000 shares in 15 hours. The post illustrates Warrensburg’s student section standing with its back turned to the court, and one student raising a Donald Trump presidential campaign sign.
Antonia Nunn, a Kansas City resident and proud Yellowjacket alumni, was in Warrensburg to support her brother in his junior varsity game. She said her post was inspired by surprise at the student section’s behavior.
“You do your tradition, but holding up the Trump sign just blew me away,” Nunn said. “I was shocked. Really? We came out here for a game, not to feel uncomfortable toward you guys playing a game.
“I felt like they knew what type of message they were sending with that.”
According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 64 percent of students in the Center High School K-12 district are black, and 69 percent of its high school students are black. Six percent of Warrensburg High School Students are black.
Concerns and debate that the pre-game gesture was racist engulfed the content and comments of the post, and Warrensburg High School apologized for insensitivity in a release Tuesday.
“The Warrensburg R-VI School District does not condone these actions and apologizes to anyone who was offended by the actions of these students,” Warrensburg superintendent Scott Patrick said in the release. “We will do everything in our power to rectify this situation and keep events like this from happening in the future.”
According to the Warrensburg Daily-Star Journal, the game concluded without interruption.
The Tigers student section were dressed for “farmer night” and, according to Patrick, the themes are not pre-approved by administrators. The Missouri State High School Athletic Association prohibits hand-held signs at district and state series championships, and encourage schools to follow those guidelines during the regular season.
“I think my initial reaction was it was supposed to be in fun and it was taken too far,” Patrick said in a phone call Tuesday. “It’s an individual’s decision as to believe that’s an offensive statement or not, and there were some that do believe it was insensitive, and I tend to agree … There was no reason for there to be a Trump-Pence sign displayed at a basketball game.”
Center High School published a release Tuesday, and expressing compassion for its students and their families.
“At Center we are a family and we’re always concerned when our students and families feel or are disrespected,” the release said. “We have talked with our students and we will continue to listen to them and their families.”
Nunn, who took calls from a handful of media outlets Tuesday, said among those reaching out to apologize were Warrensburg students from the crowd and alumni.
“I really appreciate those that did apologize,” she said.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2.