FOX 12 Investigators: How local groups are addressing racism, hate speech in youth sports

Recent headlines have put a sharper focus on racism in youth sports.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 7:45 AM PST
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GLADSTONE, Ore. (KPTV) - Recent headlines have put a sharper focus on racism in youth sports. Families have filed complaints, and the Oregon School Activities Association has found some of these complaints to be credible.

Gladstone football coach Cam Sommer says he’s seen the racial taunting and harassment that can cause so much damage. He says, “we’re talking about 15 and 16 year old kids who shouldn’t have to ever experience those things and at a young age with a lot of emotions it’s tough and unfortunately for the number of times we ran into it, it was a bit of a problem for us.”

This school year there’s a renewed effort to address the problem, thanks to a relatively new law voted in by Oregon lawmakers.

After one of her constituents contacted her to ask for help, State Representative Janelle Bynum along with State Representative Barbara Smith Warner and then-House Speaker Tina Kotek began work on House Bill 3409. It puts more responsibility for sanctioning discriminatory behavior on the shoulders of the OSAA.

Families have filed complaints, and the Oregon School Activities Association has found some of these complaints to be credible.

In response, this school year the OSAA launched the S.T.A.R. Initiative. It sets the bar for non-discrimination in high school activities. This year all coaches, athletic directors and officials were required to undergo new training. The idea is to make it clear that there is zero tolerance for racial discrimination and intimidation.

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OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber says that while the focus is on education and raising awareness, sanctions do exist. Possible sanctions include probation, penalties, forfeitures and fines, all the way up to expulsion from the association if something rises to that level.

If students or parents witness or experience harassment or racial taunting at an OSAA event, they are encouraged to report the incident first to school officials but if the response is not sufficient a report can be made directly to the OSAA. There is an online form available on their website.