The principal, athletic director, girls basketball coach and girls’ basketball team of Janesville Parker High School all signed a letter of apology delivered to Beloit Memorial students, staff and girls’ basketball players after fans in the Parker student section dressed in a “gangster” theme for the girls basketball game on November 23.
As we reported Thursday, Beloit Memorial captain Mandi Franks emailed Parker administration after the game to express her disappointment in the theme, noting that Beloit Memorial students live with gangs and gang violence every day and the theme makes light of a very serious issue. She further said Beloit Memorial is one of the most diverse schools in the state — only 33 percent of the students there are white, as opposed to 72 percent of Parker’s — and the attire, which largely mimicked 1990s Black fashion, conflated Black culture with gang violence in an unfair way.
Photos taken by a Parker parent show students wearing white “wife beater” tank tops, durags, backwards hats, sagging jeans, gold chains and other accessories associated with stereotypical “gang” attire.
“Please accept our apologies for the hurt that was caused by some of our students,” Parker’s administrators wrote. “Our students typically choose spectator themes for the games as a way to encourage spirit, participation and camaraderie. With respect to the theme initially chosen for that particular game, we have learned that student organizers realized its inappropriateness, and made attempts to change the theme prior to the game. Unfortunately, some of our students still opted to dress in a manner that was unacceptable and in poor taste.”
The letter said Parker “can and will use this as a teaching and learning opportunity. As a follow up, we will continue to have discussions with our student body about how to best create an atmosphere that is welcoming and tolerant. Teams will also be working with administration to ensure that spectator theme nights are in line with our values and create a welcoming environment for all.”
“I appreciate the apology,” Franks told Madison365 Monday evening. “I hope it’s as sincere as it seems.”
She said she especially appreciates that Parker administrators pledged to make it a teaching moment.
“That was really my point in emailing, to solve this through education,” she said. “I hope this lasts longer than this issue. I hope this isn’t just this week. I really hope this affects the future students, not just this year.”
Kathy Crawford, a Beloit Memorial parent who was at the game and supplied photos to Madison365, also expressed appreciation for the apology in a message to Madison365.