I played football back in middle school, so I can understand that sometimes post game celebrations can get out of hand. However, it’s the job of the coach to keep them from spinning out of control and disciplining the players when they do stupid and offensive things as fit — not encouraging them. American Magnet Football coach Bud Walpole found this out the hard way when he was dismissed by the Charleston County School District on Tuesday following post game celebration that allegedly involved smashing watermelons and making “ape sounds” that were offensive to the African Members of the team.
The allegations were first brought to district officials by a parent of the opposing team. The allegations led to an investigation, which unearthed details of the coach and his players smashing watermelons and having the players eat the fruit remains, in addition to making “ape-like noises” while smashing the aforementioned fruit.
Watermelons and ape-like noises; it doesn’t take a lot to see why, after a century or more of stereotypes, those would be offensive to the African American players. It’s not rocket science, it’s basic media exposure and understanding American history. It’s disingenuous to insist that they’re somehow “innocent” or “good fun;” a century plus of stereotypes doesn’t go away because you’re uncomfortable with them at that moment in time — try living with them, day in and day out.
Despite that, Walpole was a successful coach — his team has a 6-2 record — and he remains a popular figure as a result. There’s a petition circulating on change.org to reinstate Walpole with more than 1,400 signatures. He will retain his teaching position in the school, and has received support from other coaches in the area. Military Magnet football coach Gene Ross told the Post and Courier that he “never witnessed anything like that after our games,” and that “Bud Walpole is a gentleman, always first class and gracious.”