A high school football team in Northern California was forced to forfeit the remainder of its season after a video showed several players staging a reenactment of a “slave auction,” according to district officials.
In a statement, Doreen Osumi, the superintendent of Yuba City Unified School District, called the incident at River Valley High School in Yuba City “extremely distressing,” and confirmed that participating students are not playing the rest of the season. The student-athletes were in violation of the code of conduct, Osumi said.
“As a result, we do not have the necessary number of players to safely field the varsity team and must thus forfeit the remainder of the season,” Osumi said.
The news of the video and its aftermath came ahead of River Valley’s game against Roseville Woodcreek High School last Friday. The Sacramento Bee reported that Osumi sent an email to district staff members, including those at River Valley, announcing the team’s forfeiture and saying the school district had launched an investigation into a “disgraceful” video made by River Valley players.
“I received a copy of a recording of River Valley High School football team members acting out a reprehensible act of a slave auction,” Osumi wrote in the email. “The recording clearly demonstrates that this situation was orchestrated and organized, which underscores my concern that students spent time contemplating this terrible act without the slightest regard that this action is hateful and hurtful.”
KCRA-TV in Sacramento reported that it obtained a copy of the video in which about a dozen students pointed and yelled dollar amounts at three Black students who were standing in their underwear up against a wall. The video has since been deleted, according to KCRA.
Osumi was not made available for an interview and did not respond to additional questions about the issue, including how many students were involved or where the video was recorded.
Staff at River Valley, including the principal, the athletic director and the football coach, could not be reached for additional comment and did not respond to emailed questions.
Michael Garrison, commissioner of the California Interscholastic Federation’s Sac-Joaquin Section, said they are working with Yuba City school district officials and “commend them on promptly addressing the misconduct of their student athletes.” He called it an “unfortunate” incident that does not align with CIF’s philosophy.
In her statement, Osumi said though students may have thought the “skit was funny,” it was “unacceptable” and required reflection on systemic racism.
“Reenacting a slave sale as a prank tells us that we have a great deal of work to do with our students so they can distinguish between intent and impact,” Osumi said. “We know that corrective action may be required in accordance with policy, but it is education, honest, open discussions and instruction that will guide our students to realize that their choices and actions have consequences.”
The district and River Valley staff are working on lessons to help the students learn from the situation, Osumi said.
The school’s junior varsity team will continue with its season and sophomores and juniors from the varsity team can join the JV team for the rest of the season, Osumi said.
The varsity team, which was 0-6, had four games left in its 2022 regular season.