Star high school basketball player Jalen Johnson taunted at game, student suspended

NOW: Star high school basketball player Jalen Johnson taunted at game, student suspended

PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Some people are outraged after Wednesday night's Port Washington versus Nicolet varsity boys basketball game.

A number of students held up large photos of Nicolet student-athlete, Jalen Johnson, one of the top high school basketball players in the state.

The images showed Johnson wearing a dark-colored face mask. It was taken from his personal social media account.

Nicolet parents who were at the game said the behavior of Port Washington students was appalling and hateful.

“They were yelling and just heckling," said Carisa DiMattina, whose son plays on the Nicolet team. "I think it was malicious, I don’t think there would be any way to justify or excuse taking someone’s personal picture, if that's what it is and displaying it in that manner." 

But a Port Washington parent who printed out the images for the students, told CBS 58 News, the students were just trying to distract the top recruit from making free throws. He said the taunts were not racially motivated. 

His son received a five day suspension for his involvement. 

However, in the midst of controversy surrounding the use of blackface, some feel using that particular picture was offensive.

"Maybe some of those kids just genuinely didn't understand what was offensive about choosing to use that picture, but they should learn," DiMattina said.

Johnson reacted to the incident on his Twitter account, said it was "UNACCEPTABLE."

Eric Burke, principal of Port Washington High School released a statement:

“On behalf of all of us at the Port Washington Saukville School District, we want to express our strong disappointment for the display of the entirely unacceptable signs at Wednesday’s boys varsity basketball game against Nicolet High School. The signs can be viewed by some as racist, and are just plain wrong. As soon as school officials saw them, the signs were taken down.

“It is also extremely disappointing that a parent was involved in printing the signs. Even if nothing bad was intended, the conduct sends a bad message, intended or not. We at the Port Washington-Saukville School District teach acceptance and respect, and this goes against the mission of our district to educate all students on the importance and value of respecting others. This is an opportunity for all of us to learn to be more accepting of others and embrace our diversity. This conduct can be viewed as harmful and hateful. We condemn such behavior because this is not representative of the values of our District.

“Our students have expressed an interest in apologizing to the Nicolet student-athlete and the Nicolet fans for last night’s incident. We are glad that our students feel that way because they should know that these actions were wrong and that there are consequences to this harmful behavior. We hope this incident can serve as a teaching moment for students and the entire school community on the effects and lasting impact of inappropriate conduct.

“We continue to investigate this incident and gather more facts. At this time, one student has been suspended in connection with this conduct. As the investigation continues, we will determine if other appropriate consequences are needed. One thing that is needed is for all of us to have a better understanding of the world around us and to respect the fact that we are all different.”

Dr. Robert Kobylski, superintendent for Nicolet High School, released a statement:

At last night’s basketball game between Nicolet High School and Port Washington High School, Port Washington students displayed enlarged photos of Nicolet athlete Jalen Johnson wearing a charcoal facial mask. This photo was taken from a personal Instagram account in which Jalen and a friend were applying the common clarifying skin care product. I cannot speak to the motivation or intent the Port Washington students had in displaying this photo, whether a harmless skin-care prank or a more deeply troubling, racially motivated scenario.

I can attest, however, to the fact that Jalen is more than a tremendous athlete: he is a fine, upstanding young man and deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy by all students and people, no matter what bench they are rooting for.

My expectation is that Nicolet students always display respect, upstanding character and courtesy to one another and to students from other schools in sports, and in every day interactions. I also expect that Nicolet students receive the same treatment from students at other schools.

Share this article: