‘That’s Why You Shouldn’t Let Monkeys Out of Their Cages’: Racist Tweets After H.S. Basketball Game

How did the Mahopac basketball team’s head coach—who is Black—react? What punishment is in store for the students?

By Albert Lin

New York High School Racist Tweets Basketball GameThree New York high school students have been suspended and more are expected to be disciplined for posting racist messages on social media following their school’s loss in a basketball game to a largely Black team.

Those students are held accountable,” said Mahopac Central School District Superintendent Thomas Manko, who emphasized that members of the team were not involved in the tweets. “They have been suspended from school. They’ll lose privileges for participating in activities for a long time to come.”

Manko added that the students will undergo sensitivity training when they return to school. He would not specify the length of the suspensions but said suspensions usually run from one to five days. “They chose poorly, horribly,” Manko told The Journal News. “To use racial slurs or stereotypes, there’s no room for that in our worldview.”

Tensions were already high during the Feb. 27 game between Mahopac High School and Mount Vernon High School, both in suburban New York City, with reports of racial slurs being used by Mahopac players and fans and of a Confederate flag being waved. After Mt. Vernon’s 43-40 win, Twitter exploded with racist messages, such as: “That’s why you shouldn’t let monkeys out of their cages #mtvernonzoo”; “tough loss boys, but at least we can talk to our dads about it”; and “one of the very few biological mount vernon fathers just tried to sell me crack outside the county center.” (Many of the tweets in question have since been deleted or the accounts set to private or closed.)

Mahopac student Laura Peniowich told WCBS-TV, “It’s disgraceful. It’s embarrassing that people are saying racial slurs on Twitter. It’s embarrassing just to go to the school.”

Mahopac Head Coach Kevin Downes, who is Black, took to Twitter to express his displeasure at the actions of his team’s supporters:

Mount Vernon Head Coach and Athletic Director Gary Cimmino said, “It’s a disgusting part of sports.”

In a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Commissioner of Education John King, Mount Vernon City School District Interim Superintendent Judith Johnson said that her school’s team was “verbally attacked and subjected to racial taunts of an abhorrent nature.” She called for, among other things, the events to be recognized as a civil-rights violation and for the Mahopac basketball team to be suspended for one year. (Presumably she means that the school not be able to field a team for a year, not that the players should be suspended from school for a year.)

Manko, who is retiring in June, said he has already apologized to Mount Vernon officials and hopes that the coaches and members of both teams can sit down for lunch and get to know each other better. Cimmino doesn’t plan to be there. “I’m not interested in that at all,” he said. “These might be criminal acts. If someone does something to me, I’m not interested in sitting down and singing religious songs with them.”

As of the 2010 Census, the population of Mahopac was 91.1 percent white and 2.1 percent Black, while Mount Vernon was 63.4 percent Black and 24.3 white.

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  • No, racial slurs are not “a disgusting part of sports.” They’re not a part of sports at all, and should not be normalized — or accepted — as same. Racist comments need to be considered socially unacceptable in sports, just as they already are in many other areas of society.

  • The teens are saying what they’ve been taught as being acceptable to describe Black people.


    • monkeys are brown because of the hair on their skin; that hair is STRAIGHT,not kinky. when one shaves the brown straight hair off, it is noted that the monkey’s skin is pale pink or “white”. The monkey has eyes of many different colors: blue, green, gray and even lavender, a trait common to white people. The monkey also has thin lips which is also a trait of whites. so why o whites always call other people monkeys???????

  • The best way to show displeasure to this sort of “free speech” is win the game … as they did. Individuals feelings are personal and was revealed through their “free speech” exercise.

  • So the deep south does not have complete ownership of racist taunting!!! I am appalled at the level of ignorance displayed by this team and it’s followers. Every time that I think that we have turned the corner on the racism issue, something slaps me back into reality. I will continue to hope that through educationa and proper parenting, we can change the thought processes of these type of people. We can only do our part in changing this world.

  • This is nothing new. I graduated from high a long, long time ago. I am from California. Specifically, Los Angeles. Predominately white schools have almost always portrayed poor sportsmanship. They have a difficult time losing to other predominately white schools, and when they lose to a predominately black, they also went absolutely nuts back then too. In every type of compettitive endeavor with them, for the most part they just could not handle it. Did every single “white” school react this way? Absolutely not–but the vast majority did. Especially if the game was on their turf!! It’s sad to see that a whole lot has not changed! This is unfortunate. America’s race problem will never end–hey we “black G.I’s” got into firefights with the V.C. and crazy white boys in Vietnam!!! The year I graduated from high school–1961!!!

  • Very immature, very uneducated, very disgusting, very ignorant…I could go on and on with unfavorable descriptors…by Mahopac students/fans. There’s absolutely no place for that kind of reaction. However, I’m disappointed that the Mt. Vernon coach won’t open up lines of communication – when one gets to know another person… “Remember the Titans”?

  • You don’t sit down when someone hates you. When they truly apologize and show remorse for what was said, did and the hurt caused then maybe they can sit down and talk as equals. I said remorse NOT shame. At this point I don’t see any of the tweeters expressing being wrong. Only when acknowledging the harm caused can successful dialog be exchanged. When they can express and display they fully understand and see that the words and the actions taken have truly hurt someone/a group of people with unkind, disrespectful and igornant remarks that are not only socially unacceptable but depraved and expresses severe indifference. All this because of a game – they should sit down for a year so they can realize the consequences of their actions and learn sportsmanship.

  • Team members always repeat what they have heard throughout their lives. It is amazing that some are surprised at this conduct, and wish to have people undergo sensitivity training. Why not try to achieve cultural competence and awareness before those things occur.
    what a novel concept.

  • They lost by 3 points not 30. Obvious this was a good game. So this had nothing to do with losing the game. I venture to say most of the accused no nothing about racism. They seem to have forgotten their coach its black. I believe there are one or two people responsible and the rest of the students are sheep that are easily led. Don’t punish the team, don’t punish the school. But do watch those weak sheep and teach them how to make better choices.

  • Benjamin it is very simplistic to say why not try to achieve cultural competence when it is obvious this is the usual racist attitudes that are learned in the home. By definition, cultural competence is defined as a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals and enables that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.

    These kids know that their behavior and comments are unacceptable but have been given the green light by their parents and their status as the dominant culture. They are simply poor losers, lack sportsmanship and when they lose the can only retaliate by spewing racial hatred. They knew exactly what they were doing.

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